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Senate Committee Defeats Infanticide Bill

March 30, 1999
By: David Grebe
State Capital Bureau
Links: HB 427, SB 124, SB 345

JEFFERSON CITY - Abortion opponents spent Tuesday scurrying through statehouse hallways trying to find a way to overcome a surprising defeat by the the Senate Health and Welfare Committee.

Despite the bill's defeat, proponents were undeterred. "I think we'll get a vote on it," said Sam Lee, director of Campaign for Life-Missouri.

"I expected this," said Sen. Ted House, D-St. Charles, one of the bill's proponents. "It was assigned to an unfriendly committee, that doesn't represent the majority of either the House or the Senate."

Sen. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia, a committee member, voted against sending the bill to the floor.

The Committee rejected the bill 4-4. Under Senate rules, ties are reported do not pass.

This year's bill takes a different approach from previous years - it creates the crime of "infanticide" - and makes it a crime to kill an infant while it's in the birth process.

As hundreds of abortion rights opponents swarmed through the Capitol - for a previously scheduled lobby day - several senators plotted strategy on how to bring the bill back to the floor.

"As a former fetus, I oppose abortion," was the message some activists wore on their T-shirts Tuesday afternoon.

An unknown number of senators have signed a petition to force a vote on the bill - despite the committee's rejection. Another option, according to Lee, is having the committee reconsider the bill.

Senators could also choose to amend another, much milder bill that awaiting action by the full Senate. That measure which includes an exception for the mother's health -- a point the governor has demanded. But that exception's unacceptable to many abortion rights opponents - who only accept an exemption to protect the mother's life.

If the tougher bill is brought to the floor by petition to strip it from committee, it would be the first time in 20 years the Senate's taken that action.

A major question for this year's session is whether or not there are enough votes in the Senate to override an expected veto from Gov. Mel Carnahan.

Carnahan has said he won't sign a bill that does not include an exception for the health of the mother. His 1997 veto of a similar bill was upheld by one Senate vote.