JEFFERSON CITY - The Senate Public Health Committee reversed itself Thursday and sent to the full Senate a House-passed bill to ban partial-birth abortions.
Last week, the Committee rejected the bill 4-4. On Thursday, only one member voted against the bill.
The Senate committee actually had little choice but to approve the bill -- if it wanted to preserve the Senate's cherished tradition about the powers of committees.
More than enough Senators had signed a petition to strip the bill from committee if the measure was not approved. It has been 20 years since a bill has been stripped from a Senate committee.
The committee tacked on an amendment to provide an exemption to the ban in cases involving the health of the mother -- an exemption that has been demanded by the governor.
In 1997, Gov. Mel Carnahan had vetoed a partial-birth abortion ban that did not contain a health exemption. His veto was sustained by a one-vote margin in the Senate.
Since then, one of the members who voted to sustain the governor's veto has been replaced by a solid abortion opponent.
Among the committee members switching his vote was Sen. Joe Maxwell, D-Mexico, who said the original version of the bill was not acceptable.
"It is drafted in such a way that it will outlaw all abortion procedures in the state of Missouri in all trimesters", he said.
Maxwell offered the amendment for the health exemption.
But that exemption may not last very long. Bill supporters have vowed they simply would offer an amendment on the Senate floor to remove the exemption.
"The language is not the preferred language but the important thing is that it's out there where the whole Senate can debate it," said Lou DeFoe, lobbyist for the Missouri Catholic Conference.
The Senate committee also approved a Senate bill banning partial birth abortions -- but not before adding on the same health exemption added to the House-passed bill.