Missouri House advances bill that would require minors to obtain parental notification before abortions

(Reuters/Aaron P. Bernstein)Pro-life activists gather for the National March for Life rally in Washington, DC, U.S. January 27, 2017.

The Missouri House of Representatives has given its preliminary approval to a bill that would require minors who are seeking an abortion to inform their parents or legal guardian before undergoing the procedure.

The measure is aimed at expanding current law that requires the written consent of one parent or guardian before underage girls can obtain an abortion.

Under the new legislation, the consenting parent would be required to provide a written notice to the other custodial parent or guardian, but would not require the consent of the second parent.

Rep. Rocky Miller (R-Lake Ozark), who sponsored the bill, referred to the measure as a "common-sense bill" and said that it was intended to create a conversation. "It helps the person getting an abortion get a full idea of what's going on," Miller said, according to the Missourian.

He noted that the proposal could allow pregnant teenagers to have a support system, which may lead them to make a different decision.

Critics of the bill have feared that it does not protect minors who are victims of sexual abuse by a guardian.

"I worry about the potential danger that we are putting these minors in if they are required to notify and recreate or establish conversation again between a legal parent that they may not want to be speaking to for legal reasons, or various other reasons," said Rep. Crystal Quade (D-Springfield).

The bill contains exceptions in cases when the other parent has been convicted of a sexual offense or cannot be located. Exceptions are also allowed if the child has an order of protection out against the parent or guardian. The legislation also allows the minor to petition for a court order to allow an abortion without notification.

Miller said that minor who fakes a second parent's notification would be at risk of civil penalty but not criminal penalty. "If you're really afraid of (the guardian), and you're afraid that they're a bad actor, make it up," he said.

Quade noted that Miller had indicated that he is open to adding an amendment that would add safety precautions for minors, but she is still skeptical about the bill's purpose.

"The bill doesn't really do anything other than scare young women into feeling like they need to do something that they don't want to do," she said.

Similar proposals have been considered by state lawmakers in the past several years, but they did not pass the full legislature.

A final approval from the House is required before the bill can be considered in the Senate. The bill would not change Missouri's requirement for women to wait 72 hours before receiving an abortion.

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