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Governor and Missouri Catholic Conference lobbyist face-off

September 07, 1999
By: Hollie Maloney
State Capital Bureau
Links: HB 427

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri's governor and the executive director of Missouri's Catholic Conference hold their historic debate over abortion this morning in Jefferson City.

Negotiations between the governor's office and the Catholic Conference continued Tuesday over details of the face-off.

Jerry Nachtigal, Gov. Mel Carnahan's spokesman, said the terms of the debate were unsatisfactory. Originally only Louis DeFeo, executive director for the Missouri Catholic Conference, and Carnahan were supposed to speak.

"We've told Mr. DeFeo that it really wasn't acceptable to us; that we wanted some of our legal experts to also take part in the discussion," said Nachtigal.

Nachtigal said they didn't want to exclude some of their top people from the meeting. He said deputy chief of staff, Rebecca Lambe, and the governor's legal counsel, Joe Bednar, will be at the meeting.

But even before the debate, a debate had been triggered over the debate itself.

"Mr. Bednar can talk to whoever, but he won't be talking to me," DeFeo said. "I will be talking to the governor only."

Dr. Robert Ferris, an obstetrician, will join DeFeo but will not be speaking, DeFeo said.

The debate is being held exactly one week before the legislature meets to consider bills vetoed by the governor last spring. The abortion-restriction measure passed by the legislature by well above the two-thirds majority in the House and Senate that will be necessary to override the veto.

Carnahan vetoed the partial-birth abortion bill in July, saying the bill would ban first and second trimester abortions. In a statement, he listed the absence of exemptions for the mother's health and cases of rape or incest as other reasons he vetoed the bill.

DeFeo said he hopes to address the governor's concerns and fears.

Rep. Connie Cierpoit, R-Independence, said the governor is being deceptive by saying the bill will ban all abortions. "He knows it won't," she said.

Proponents of the bill said the health exception is too broad.

"The American Medical Association supports this bill and this is only the second bill regarding procedures it's supported in it's 150 year history," Cierpoit said.

The meeting scheduled for 10:30 at Jefferson City's Truman Building is open to the news media only.

It will be the first time in recent history, if ever, that a governor publicly has debated a religious leader over a pending legislative issue.