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Abortion Comromise, Maybe

April 26, 1996
By: Claudia Gabarain
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - A compromise may be in the works on abortion in an effort to avoid a gubernatorial veto like last year.

After a hearing on abortion legislation by the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Senate sponsor of the abortion-counseling bill suggested he might drop the provision which had triggered Gov. Mel Carnahan's veto in 1995.

That provision would have required a woman to contact an outside, private counselor before an abortion could be performed.

Sen. John Schneider, D-St. Louis County, said his approach would depend on Gov. Mel Carnahan's position toward Tel-link, an 800 number to provide information on abortion and its alternatives.

"If the Governor is willing to spend $900,000 in Tel-link in order to give the information, we'll certainly be discussing making it (the meeting with a counselor) voluntary."

Schneider, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said after the committee hearing that they would put together a substitute for the House-passed version of the measure. The House had approved legislation that would impose requirements on abortion facilities, rather than on women seeking abortions.

Lou DeFeo, lobbyist for the Catholic Conference, said he recommended the enhancement of education and abortion alternatives.

The House approach to abortion regulation came under opposition from Planned Parenthood at the Senate committee hearing.

"The requirement that a physician has to have clinical privileges at a hospital and town where he or she is performing abortions is not necessary, but very prohibitive," said Planned Parenthood's lobbyist, Crystal Williams.

In certain areas there may not be any hospitals that would allow a physician to perform abortions, she said.

Erika Fox, from Planned Parenthood in Kansas City, said this would affect safety, as the harder it is for women to find licensed physicians or to afford the cost of the procedures, "the more likely it is that they will resort to unscrupulous and unlicensed abortionists, or attempt dangerous self-induced abortion."

After asking Fox about the regulations at Planned Parenthood facilities, Schneider said their procedures might become a standard for all facilities providing abortion.

But the idea of special state licensing by the Department of Health did not win Williams' support - even if the regulations are modeled after Planned Parenthood's.

"DOH would probably not in essence go after our clinics; but under an unfriendly administration, heaven forbid, that could happen and we could have some really serious problems."

Planned Parenthood's objection to the bill was a point raised DeFeo. "It should give one concern that is the abortion industry who's objecting the bill, not women. What you had as witnesses today were Planned Parenthood, I didn't see a women's group."