Missouri Governor Jay Nixon [official website] on Thursday said he will not sign legislation [press release] that would ban abortions [JURIST news archive] after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The measure [HB 213 materials] imposes penalties on doctors who fail to comply with the new restrictions. It would provide some exceptions, permitting abortions of viable fetuses only when the woman's life is endangered by a physical illness or disability, or when continued pregnancy poses the risk of substantial physical impairment to the pregnant woman. The legislation further requires a concurring opinion from a second physician before the abortion of a viable fetus can be performed. Doctors who abort viable fetuses in violation of the late-term abortion law could face up to seven years in prison and fines between $10,000 and $50,000. Nixon acknowledged the lawmakers' decision while pointing out alternatives to abortion legislation:
This legislation was approved by an overwhelming, bi-partisan majority in both houses. Although people have differing views on this issue, it's important that we work together to provide accurate health information, promote personal responsibility, protect women's health, and improve foster care, adoption and child protection services.Despite the governor's not signing the bill, the law will take effect pursuant to Article III, § 31 of the Missouri Constitution [text].
The Missouri House of Representatives [official website] gave final approval to the legislation in May, and the Senate approved the measure in April after receiving preliminary approval [JURIST reports] from the House in March. Missouri is just the latest of several states to impose restrictions abortions after the 20-week mark, when some studies suggest a fetus can begin feeling pain. Indiana, Alabama, Ohio and Oklahoma [JURIST reports] have each passed legislation this year which restricts the abortion procedure after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Iowa, Kansas and Idaho [JURIST reports] have also recently passed legislation restricting late-term abortions.