JEFFERSON CITY - Less than 24 hours after the governor warned he would veto it, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved an abortion-counseling bill.
The so called "care givers" bill would give money to the Tel-Link program, a toll free number that gives advice on abortion alternatives. Part of the money given to Tel-Link would allow them to place advertisements and expand the service. It also would require abortion facilities to post signs to let women know about the Tel-Link service.
Committee Chairman John Schneider, D-St. Louis County, said these posted signs would let women, who want to talk, know that there are trained care managers available.
"If you want an alternative to abortion, there are people out there you can talk to," Schneider said. "If we can help them, we ought to bring it to them."
Under the Tel-Link program, women would be referred to "case managers," who would have to meet training certification standards. Case managers would advise women on prenatal care and other services.
The bill also would place restrictions on where an abortion can be performed and who can perform the abortions.
On Wednesday, Gov. Mel Carnahan promised he would veto Schneider's proposal.
Even though Schneider had dropped the requirement that a woman contact a private counselor, Carnahan said the bill was unacceptable because it involved government in a matter that the governor said was between a woman and her physician.
Schneider said he hoped election year politics would not stand in the way of writing legislation to give women an alternative to abortions.
"I hope the Senate can move past that and write a bill that says we know that when a woman is in that position... she's got a problem," Schneider said.
As a result of other legislative action Thursday, parents are a step closer to having their children's immunizations paid for by private insurance companies.
The House approved and sent to the governor legislation that would require insurance companies to reimburse parents for the cost of children's shots.
Opponents said that the problems with immunization should be addressed by health departments, not private doctors.
Immunizations are currently available free at county health departments.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Scott Lakin, R-Kansas City, said that he thinks that the private sector should be more involved in getting children immunized.
"If the public sector is doing so well, why are we (Missouri) 49th out of 50? We're missing a lot of kids because parents are not getting them to a public health facility."
Rep. Bubs Hohulin, R-Lamar, said the legislation would encourage "laziness."
"With this bill you are putting one more brick with what is wrong with health care today, by taking competitive forces out of the market. There will be no more incentive to shop around, and the rest of us will pay for it with increased premiums," he said.
Rep. Gary Marble, R-Neosho, agreed with Hohulin's objections and said that this legislation approaches the problem from the wrong angle.
"This is a big step in the wrong direction," he said. "What's the incentive to go to the health department."
Opponents said that public health departments could give immunizations at a lower cost than private facilities because they purchase the medicines at a bulk rate.
Lakin responded by saying that the importance of immunizations needs to be elevated, and not all health departments consider it a priority.
In other legislative business, the House also gave final approval to the 2% cut in the state sales tax rate on food items. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia has been widely debated in the past couple of weeks, but was passed unanimously Thursday afternoon right as the House finished for the week.
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