Missouri’s Republican-led senate has passed a bill to ban abortion after eight weeks of pregnancy, even in cases of rape.
Senators approved the legislation by 24 votes to 10 in the early hours of Thursday morning (16 May) only hours before the Friday deadline.
The Midwestern state joins Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, and Georgia in approving ‘heartbeat bills.’ Banning abortion from around six weeks (before many people even know they are pregnant).
What does this mean?
Senators approved the bill at 4.05am, but it has not been officiated. It still requires another vote of approval in the state’s GOP-led House of Representatives.
However, Missouri governor Mike Parson has publicly voiced his support of the measure.
If the house approves Bill HB 126, it will see Missouri enforce some of the most strictest laws on abortion in the US. While the proposal includes exceptions for medical emergencies, it does not apply to pregnancies caused by rape or incest.
In other words, people capable of becoming pregnant would not legally be able to seek an abortion in the state if they had fallen pregnant through rape or incest.
Furthermore, doctors would face five to 15 years in prison for violating the blunt eight-week cutoff. Though, people who receive abortions at eight weeks or later into a pregnancy won’t be prosecuted.
Democratic senators attacked the proposal when it was up for debate on the Senate floor. But lawmakers ultimately voted in its favor.
But if the house or courts block the bill, less-restrictive bans will instead be introduced. Ranging from 14 to 20 weeks.
Pro-choice advocates and LGBTI folk alike have slammed Missouri senators. St. Louis filmmaker and columnist Aisha Sultan hit out the senators for their ‘astounding hypocrisy.’
Missouri Senate follows Alabama lead. Astounding hypocrisy. https://t.co/iHnM7zkAcg
— Aisha Sultan (@AishaS) May 16, 2019
‘They want to outlaw abortion before many women even know that they’re pregnant,’ Sultan said.
‘Meanwhile, Missouri has one of the highest maternal death rates in the country.’
According to America’s Health Rankings by the United Health Foundation, the rate of maternal mortality in Missouri are well above the national average and have been on the rise according to data from 2016 to 2018.
‘So much of the bill is just shaming women
Speaking on Wednesday, St. Louis-area Democratic Senator Jill Schupp criticized the bill.
According to the New York Times, she told colleagues: ‘So much of the bill is just shaming women into some kind of complacency that says we are vessels of pregnancy.
‘Rather than understanding that women’s lives all hold different stories.
‘We cannot paint with a broad brush and interfere by putting a law forward that tells them what they can and cannot do.’
Not the only state
Missouri follows a raft of state level anti-choice enactments against abortion this year. All eyes will now be on Louisiana, where lawmakers are voting on abortion this week.
Alabama governor Kay Ivey signed the most severe abortion ban in the nation on Tuesday night, making performing an abortion a felony in nearly all cases. Doctors would face up to 99 years in prison.
All those in favor of the bill were white male GOP members. All female senators opposed the proposal.
The rush to restrict abortion comes as opponents push for new restrictions in the hope that the more conservative-led US Supreme Court will overturn the Roe vs Wade case.
The landmark ruling by the US Supreme Court in 1973 saw courts made abortions a constitutional right across the nation.
Is abortion an LGBTI issue?
Undoubtedly, the attack on American’s right to an abortion is an LGBTI issue.
GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTI media organization, denounced the bills. ‘Limiting access to abortion is not just a women’s issue — it is an issue that affects us all,’ said Clare Kenny, Director of Youth Engagement for GLAAD.
LGBTI Americans, who are more likely to be poor, are more likely to rely on health clinics yhat provide abortion access for women, according to the National LGBTQ Task Force.
A 2015 study found these bisexual and lesbian women are almost twice as likely as straight-identifying women to get pregnant before the age of 20.
Moreover, trans men, intersex and gender-nonconforming people – like cisgender women –can get pregnant and would need access to health care services, including abortion access.