JEFFERSON CITY - "What else are you doing besides punishing women?" Rep. Stacey Newman, D- St. Louis County, asked during a House discussion on regulating the donation of fetal tissue Tuesday, April 12.
The bill would prohibit the donation of fetal tissue acquired during abortions. It comes in response to national stories of an edited video clip that abortion-rights opponents argued showed Planned Parenthood discussing the sale of aborted fetus body parts.
"We should have laws to make sure baby body parts are not being sold in this state," Rep. Andrew Koenig, R- St. Louis County, said.
But Newman replied "it is my body and my choice."
Newman conveyed a story to the House about a patient from Duke University who experienced a failed pregnancy and wished to donate the fetal tissue in an effort to understand why she was unable to carry pregnancies to term, a wish the physician was unable to grant because of similar legislation.
"You insist you care about families and yet this bill goes even further to restrict medical technologies... your families, your constituents, depend on this medical research and yet you are willing to politicize fetal tissue research to attack abortion rights," Newman said.But Koenig repetedly used the phrase "selling baby body parts" in attacking aborted fetal tissue donations.
The bill's main sponsor is Rep. Diane Franklin, R- Camdenton. "You hear this over and over and over again that this is tissue, there are abortions done in that clinic for 21 week old babies, that's a baby that's about the size of a banana," Franklin said.
Rep. Mike Moon, R- Lawrence County, spoke in support of the bill and said it had nothing to do with his religion. "I haven't quoted the bible and for the sake of anti-argument I won't."
Moon said he believes that at the exact moment of fertilization the cells should no longer be considered sex cells, but rather should be considered a human being.
"I hear women from time to time say "it's my body and a man cannot make the decision for me," but what happened back in 1973, was it not seven men who made a decision for women? But yet that's what they wanted, so it was convenient and it's accepted. But today, men- hands off!" Moon said regarding the acceptance of the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court ruling in 1973.
Moon said advocates of the bill consider wanted babies as babies, but consider unwanted babies as "blobs of tissue."
"When a woman choses to have an abortion, would you rather us throw the fetal tissue in the trash... or would you rather doctors use it to save lives?" asked Rep. Karla May, D- St. Louis City.
Rep. Deb Lavender, D- St. Louis County, argued the intentions of this legislation. "In nations where [abortion] is not safe and legal, women die. We say we care about life and I don't see that behavior or those actions... these [fetal tissue used for research] are gifts of life as well."
"It seems to me the opponents of this almost have to dehumanize what is actually taken place," Koenig said.
Koenig told the chamber of his loss when his wife gave birth to one of three still born babies at 18 weeks old. "It breaks my heart that someone could say that that is just tissue," Koeig said.
Rep. Justin Alferman, R- Hermann, presented his own personal connection to this bill when he told the story of his expecting wife having to receive a D&C after the miscarriage of their twins.
"I would implore anyone in this chamber to look me in the eye and tell me that we buried two science experiments, two masses of tissue and not two children." Alferman said.
Monticello replied to Koenig's statement that opponents to the bill are "dehumanizing" the process.
"I take life very seriously, I take children's lives very seriously," Monticello said. Monticello said she has also experienced miscarriages and is still in opposition of the bills.
"Gentlemen I'm so grateful that you had the opportunity to hold your baby, I didn't have that opportunity. I lost my baby much too soon to do that, probably much too soon in the way it happened, I wouldn't have been able to make the choice to donate- donate, not sell, but donate, my baby's tissue to maybe help other lives," Monticello said.
The measure now faces one more House vote before going to the Senate.