JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Senate advanced a bill on Thursday that prohibits abortions at eight weeks or later, based on the machine-detectable presence of a heartbeat and brain waves at that stage, as well as other factors. According to the latest data on file with the state Department of Health, more than half of the unborn children killed in Missouri in 2017 were babies under nine weeks gestation.
House Bill 126, also known as the “Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act,” passed early this morning with a vote of 24-10.
“Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, no abortion shall be performed or induced upon a woman at eight weeks gestational age or later, except in cases of medical emergency,” the legislation reads in part.
Those who perform an illegal abortion would be charged with a felony, except for that “[a] woman upon whom an abortion is performed or induced in violation of this subsection shall not be prosecuted for a conspiracy to violate the provisions of this section.”
The bill provides a lengthy explanation as to why it believes abortions should not be performed at or past the eight week mark.
“In medicine, a special emphasis is placed on the heartbeat. The heartbeat is a discernible sign of life at every stage of human existence. During the fifth week of gestational age, an unborn child’s heart begins to beat and blood flow begins during the sixth week,” it outlines.
“Depending on the ultrasound equipment being used, the unborn child’s heartbeat can be visually detected as early as six to eight weeks gestational age.”
The measure also states that the detection of a heartbeat at eight weeks is an indicator that the baby will likely survive to birth as it notes that the chances of a miscarriage decrease significantly at that gestational marker, as compared to six weeks. It contends that such is a better point of viability than the 24-28 week mark set by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 in Roe v. Wade.
“By the fifth week of gestation, the development of the brain of the unborn child is underway. Brain waves have been measured and recorded as early as the eighth week of gestational age,” the bill further notes.
It also outlines that unborn children can be seen moving and responding to stimuli at the eight week mark.
“Pain receptors on the unborn child’s skin develop around his or her mouth at around seven to eight weeks gestational age, around the palms of his or her hands at ten to ten and a half weeks, on the abdominal wall at fifteen weeks, and over all of his or her body at sixteen weeks gestational age,” the measure explains.
The “Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act” states that any inconvenience that might be placed upon a mother for banning abortion at eight weeks and beyond is outweighed by the benefit of protecting “unborn children at later stages of development,” women who could be injured from a later abortion, doctors who pledge to do no harm, and society at large by “by fostering respect for human life, born and unborn, at all stages of development.”
However, the legislation also acknowledges that “[a] large percentage of women who have an abortion performed or induced upon them in Missouri each year are at less than eight weeks gestational age.”
According to a table created by the Missouri Department of Health, 3,751 of the total 6,790 babies who lost their lives via abortion in 2017 were under nine weeks gestation. The figure equates to 55 percent of all abortions in Missouri, albeit including the eight week mark.
Lawmakers state that the bill — and those being presented in other states — are a response to “extremist” legislation, such as that of New York and Virginia. U.S. Senator Josh Hawley told Fox & Friends this morning that he believes the matter is a states rights issue, as it is “something that is up to the people to decide,” but added that he anticipates that the “Supreme Court will ultimately have to weigh in.”
The bill now goes to the House for a vote, and if passed, will then head to the desk of Republican Gov. Mike Parson.