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The Senate debated extensively on partial-birth abortion bill.

April 29, 1999
By: Natalia Ona
State Capital Bureau
Links: HB 427

JEFFERSON CITY - Senators quarrelled into the night as abortion-rights supporters tried to stop a bill that backers say will stop partial birth abortion. The debate lasted the entire day - and well into the night.

"The purpose is to save children," said Sen. Ted House, D-St. Charles. But abortion rights supporters held a different view. "It's really about women and their ability to make decisions for themselves," said Sen. Mary Bland, D-Kansas City.

The debate had gone on for nearly 11 hours - and counting - when the Missourian went to press.

The bill was passed by the other chamber in February doesn't include the exemption for the mother's health -- the lack of which led to a veto of a similar bill in 1997.

Columbia's Sen. Ken Jacob and Sen. Joe Maxwell, D-Mexico, led the opposition Thursday.

Jacob and Maxwell introduced numerous amendments that were defeated - as members drifted out of the chamber and had to be called back at least 15 times.

"We have moved from the sublime to the absurd," said Sen. Ted House, D-St. Charles, describing one of Maxwell's amendments.

The key vote was on a Maxwell amendment to exempt the partial-birth abortion ban in cases involving the mother's health. That is the exemption demanded by the governor to get his approval. But it was rejected by the Senate 11-20.

Taking as examples Washington state and Colorado, where this issue was approached by a referendum, Sen. Jacob proposed putting the issue to a statewide vote.

That too was rejected by the Senate.

Jacob had argued that a public vote would have gotten around a possible gubernatorial veto since measures put on the statewide ballot do not require approval by the governor.

The bill before the Senate had been approved earlier this year by the House. In the Senate, however, abortion opponents have taken a slightly different approach -- using the term "infanticide" to describe the procedure they wish to prohibit.

At one point in the extended debate, Sen. Danny Staples, D-Emenance, held up a state Health Department report that there had not been one case in Missouri of the procedure that would be banned by the bill that has taken up two days of Senate debate.

"We could debate on this all day long, it won't settle anything," Bland said. - David Grebe contributed information for this story.