Pro-Choice Groups Fight Missouri Ballot Proposal
A St. Louis woman and several Missouri pro-choice groups yesterday filed a court challenge to a proposed 2008 ballot measure that they say could virtually outlaw abortion in the state.
"We are going to do everything we can to stop this terrible and extreme and dangerous measure from going forward," said Paula Gianino, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region.
"As a mother, wife and teacher, I am very concerned about the impact this initiative would have on Missouri families," said Mary Hickey, whose legal action in Cole County Circuit Court was supported by several Planned Parenthood affiliates and the Missouri Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.
Read the entire article from the Washington Times
Missouri - The Most Restrictive Law in the Country
The Baltimore Sun examined a proposed Missouri ballot initiative that would require doctors to certify that performing an abortion was necessary to avoid a woman's death or prevent a "serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman."
If the initiative is placed on the November 2008 ballot and is approved by voters, Missouri would have "possibly the most restrictive abortion law in the country," the Sun reports.
Read the entire article in the Baltimore Sun.
Missouri Religious Coalition for Reproductive
Choice and Planned Parenthood
Stand Behind Challenge to Abortion Initiative Petition
Jefferson City, MO, December 17, 2007 – Today, Planned Parenthood affiliates
in Missouri (PPMO) and the Missouri Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
(MORCRC) applauded the legal challenge, filed by Mary Hickey of St. Louis,
to the abortion ban initiative petition that was certified on December 7.
The initiative petition was proposed by
the Elliot Institute, an anti-abortion group from Illinois, and would
ban abortion unless the doctor certifies in writing it is needed to prevent
imminent death or other severe medical risks.
“We are fighting against the ban because it is extreme, dangerous,
and clearly unconstitutional,” stated Paula Gianino, President and CEO
of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, “but we would much rather
spend our time, energy, and resources doing what we do best – providing
health care to the women and men of Missouri and reducing unintended pregnancy
through our family planning and comprehensive sex education programs.”
“As a mother, wife, and teacher, I am very concerned about the impact
this initiative would have on Missouri families,” said Mary Hickey.
Besides banning abortion, the proposed initiative would allow the government
to interfere with the private health care decisions made between a woman and
her doctor and invites lawsuits against doctors, family members and others
who help a woman get abortion care.
“This is another immoral attempt to hurt women and deny them access
to the professional health care they deserve,” stated the Reverend Rebecca
Turner, Executive Director of Missouri Religious Coalition for Reproductive
Choice. “Faithful people in Missouri cannot stand by and allow this
attack on women.”
“Abortion bans harm women and do nothing to get to the root of the
problem - unintended pregnancy. If the Elliot Institute, and Governor Blunt,
truly wanted to reduce abortions in Missouri then they would join with Planned
Parenthood and focus on preventing unintended pregnancies instead of proposing
a ban on abortion,” said Tonia Stubblefield, CEO of Tri-Rivers Planned
Planned Parenthood and the Missouri Religious Coalition will do everything
we can to protect access to safe and legal abortion care in Missouri. “We
have always been here for women” said Peter Brownlie, CEO of Planned
Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, “and we will continue to fight
for access to the full range of reproductive health services.”
For the summary language and full text of the initiative go to http://www.sos.mo.gov/elections/2008petitions/08init_pet.asp#2008017
Missouri Governor Appoints Fully Stacked Task Force on Abortion
Governor Matt Blunt of Missouri has
appointed a “Governor’s Task Force on the Impact of Abortion on
Women” to make recommendations to him on policies and actions regarding
abortion. Like the governor, all 14 members of the taxpayer-funded group oppose
legal abortion. Even before the
task force convened, the governor described his expectations at a press
conference: “I certainly would begin with the presumption that abortion
has a negative impact on Missouri children, Missouri women, Missouri men,
because it’s harmful to society,” he said.
The governor’s action combines two strategies of the movement to end
legal abortion: 1) using government powers to release slanted reports on abortion,
and 2) pressuring for laws to restrict or criminalize abortion based on unsubstantiated
claims by Medical Right groups that are outside the mainstream of recognized
and accepted medical fact and practice.
The process of a stacked task force was also used in South Dakota to rationalize
a near-total ban on abortion. The ban, passed by the legislature and signed
by the governor in 2006, was ultimately rejected by voters on a state ballot
Now Missouri may be facing a similar test. Less than a month after the task
force convened, a ballot proposal with a near-total ban on abortion was filed
with the Secretary of State, said Reverend
Rebecca Turner, executive director of the Missouri Religious Coalition
for Reproductive Choice. The Elliot
Institute, the Medical Right group headed by activist David Reardon, is
seeking to put the proposal on Missouri's 2008 election ballot. The Elliot
Institute, which filed the proposal Nov. 6, would have to collect at least
90,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot in November 2008. If the required
signatures are certified by the Secretary of State, the measure will go to
The Missouri task force arose in a secretive manner and took women’s
health advocates by surprise, said Reverend Turner. “The governor is
in the pocket of right-to-life. This is their latest strategy,” she
According to the governor’s office, the Missouri task force will seek
“to understand and highlight the impact of abortion on women physiologically,
psychologically and socially.” This exercise has been attempted by legal
abortion opponents many times before, without success. The overwhelming scientific
evidence continues to show that abortion does not harm women — physically
or mentally. In the late 1980s, President Reagan asked his like-minded surgeon
general, C. Everett Koop, to conduct a study on the mental pain caused by
abortion. To everyone's surprise, Koop determined that psychological problems
were "minuscule from a public health perspective." The American
Psychological Association followed up by asking a group of six experts to
a special review. The panel concluded in 1989 that terminating an unwanted
pregnancy posed no hazard to women's mental health. The predominant sensation
women felt following an abortion was relief, the group said.
In 2004, Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), an abortion opponent, called hearings
on the impact of abortion on women, with the goal of securing federally-funded
studies about the alleged harms of abortion. Dr. Nada Stotland, Professor
of Psychiatry and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Rush Medical College
in Chicago, testified that “the data from the most rigorous, objective
studies are clear. Abortions are not a significant cause of mental illness….Unfortunately,
there are active and somewhat successful attempts to convince state and national
legislatures, members of the judiciary, the public, and women considering
abortion of the negative psychiatric and physical consequences for which there
is no good evidence.”
The 14 members of the Missouri task force include top officers of three anti-abortion
pregnancy resource centers, Missouri Nurses for Life, the Alliance for Life,
Blacks for Life, Missouri Right to Life, Missouri Family Network, and two
leaders of the Center for Bioethics and Culture Missouri, an anti-abortion
organization that opposes embryonic stem-cell research, also an issue in the
state. John McCastle, a task force member and president of Alliance for Life-Missouri,
said one issue that will be studied is whether abortion causes crime. He said
unnamed studies suggest a majority of women prisoners have had abortions.
In failing to include even a token nod to views that do not conform with
the governor’s, the Missouri task force goes one-up on the South Dakota
Task Force to Study Abortion, a 15-member panel stacked with 9 representatives
opposing legal abortion, including a lawyer with a local Catholic diocese
and the founder of the local right-to-life organization. The final report
concluded that a ban on abortion was necessary to protect the “rights,
interests, and health of the mother and the life of her unborn child.”
Even the chair of the task force,
Dr. Marty Allison, who identified herself as pro-life, said the report
was “subjective and biased” and “included false information
not reflective, in my opinion, of the testimony we heard.” The four
members who opposed a ban were refused the right to issue a minority report
and walked out. The report was then used to justify the legislature’s
passage of the ban on abortion.
The new ballot
measure proposed in Missouri, entitled “Prevention of Coerced and
Unsafe Abortion Act,” would seemingly ban all abortions unless a doctor
certified that an abortion is needed to prevent imminent death. In that case,
the abortion must be delayed while a woman undergoes “psychological,
emotional, demographic and situational” evaluations. Doctors would be
prohibited from referring patients for abortions to states with differing
laws. If a doctor failed to complete these requirements, a woman who had an
abortion could sue the doctor and receive up to $10,000 for each risk the
doctor failed to include in the determination that she should have the abortion.
The woman also could sue for wrongful death of the fetus and could file suit
up to two years "after the date the woman has recovered from any psychological
complications" from the abortion, the proposal says.
In November, Janet Crepps, a staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive
Rights, spoke at the American Public Health Association, about the increasing
manipulation of scientific evidence and claims of harms to women’s
health in efforts to prohibit abortion. Crepps noted in an abstract that state
legislatures are considering bans on abortion based on claims that abortion
leads to a series of harms, such as suicide, depression and breast cancer.
“These claims are based on little or no scientific evidence: the conclusions
of well-performed studies are inaccurately reported; studies with serious
methodological flaws are touted as definitive, and some claims are made with
no supporting evidence,” noted the abstract.
Cynthia L. Cooper
December 3, 2007