JEFFERSON CITY (NP24), [December 10, 2023]

In a contentious development, Missouri lawmakers are reigniting the abortion debate with proposed legislation that takes an unprecedented step beyond mainstream anti-abortion positions. Against the backdrop of the upcoming legislative session, both the state House and Senate Republicans have introduced bills advocating for the application of homicide charges against women who undergo abortions.

This move has sparked intense discussions, as the proposed bills, if enacted, would allow for homicide charges on behalf of an “unborn child at every stage of development.” However, the lawmakers have included key exceptions, permitting abortion in cases of coercion, threats against the pregnant woman, or when a physician deems it necessary to save the pregnant woman’s life.

State Rep. Bob Titus, a first-term Republican and sponsor of one of the bills, stated, “To me, it’s just about protecting a baby’s life like we do every other person’s life.” Titus clarified that charges would only be applicable if individuals violate existing laws, making Missouri one of 14 states with comprehensive abortion bans, albeit with limited exceptions.

This development comes against the backdrop of ongoing efforts in Missouri, where two distinct groups are endeavoring to shape abortion policies on the 2024 ballots. One proposal seeks to protect abortion rights for the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, while another, championed by moderate Republicans, aims to reduce existing restrictions.

The broader context reveals a shifting abortion landscape across the United States since the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in June 2022, which overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, curtailing the nationwide right to abortion. Subsequently, Republican-led states have implemented bans or restrictions, while Democratic-led states have worked to preserve access.

Despite these dynamics, notable anti-abortion groups generally oppose measures that could subject women to charges for undergoing abortions. Similar legislation was introduced earlier this year in Missouri and in 2023 in other states such as Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, and South Carolina. However, none of these bills progressed through legislative committees.

In Kentucky, a similar measure faced opposition from the state’s Republican attorney general and legislative leaders, ultimately leading to its demise. GOP House Speaker David Osborne emphasized that the Republican majority in his chamber had never contemplated passing an abortion ban without any exceptions, highlighting the complexities within the broader abortion discourse.

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