Legislature overturns pro-abortion vetoes
This is an updated version of an article published on Page 5 of the Sept. 12 issue of The Catholic Missourian:
By Jay Nies
Lawmakers overrode Gov. Jeremiah “Jay” Nixon’s vetoes of two pro-life laws during the Missouri General Assembly’s annual veto session Sept. 10.
HB 1132 increases the state’s tax credits for contributions to qualifying pregnancy resource centers.
HB 1307 increases the reflection time for women seeking abortions from 24 to 72 hours after the initial consultation.
Gov. Nixon vetoed both bills, which were passed during this year’s legislative session.
The vote to override the veto on HB 1132 was 123 to 36 in the House and 27 to 2 in the Senate.
Passage makes Missouri the third state in the nation to enact a 72-hour waiting period, along with Utah and South Dakota.
The override vote on HB 1307 was 117 to 44 in the House, 23 to 7 in the Senate.
Veto overrides require two-thirds majorities in both houses.
Lawmakers also voted to return to the state’s budget a $500,000 appropriation for the Alternatives to Abortion (ATA) program.
Calls and prayers
The votes were part of a particularly vibrant veto session that lasted well into the middle of the night.
Prayers and impassioned discourse were in evidence throughout the day.
Several hundred participants in a midday rally organized by pro-life organizations throughout the state packed the Capitol Rotunda.
Their cheers could be heard in hallways throughout the building.
Mike Hoey, executive director of the Missouri Catholic Conference (MCC), said concerned Catholics had played a key role in getting the laws finally passed.
The MCC helped usher the bills into law with significant bipartisan support in both chambers and vocal citizen feedback.
“Catholics from around the state contacted their legislators, and that made a big difference,” Mr. Hoey stated. “Without those calls and e-mails I don’t think we could have passed this much pro-life legislation.”
“Let’s not kid ourselves”
Speakers at the rally said it’s very reasonable to give women 72 hours to consider one of the most important decisions she’ll ever make.
“This is a matter of life and death,” stated Ramona Travino, who quit her job as manager of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Sherwood, Texas, as a result of hearing 40 Days for Life Campaign participants praying on the sidewalk in front of the clinic.
“Women deserve better than to be rushed into making a decision that will not only end the life of her unborn child ... but also leave her with a lifetime of pain and regret,” Ms. Travino stated.
She noted that Planned Parenthood, which opposes increasing the state’s abortion waiting period from 24 to 72 hours, is the largest abortion-provider in the United States, having carried out 327,000 abortions in Fiscal Year 2012-13.
She said that when she was a Planned Parenthood clinic manager, she had to convince women to choose abortion in order for the clinic to make enough money.
“Let’s not kid ourselves. This is about money. A lot of money,” she asserted, noting that those 327,000 abortions had generated about $150 million in revenue.
She predicted that with proper information and a 72-hour reflection period, many women considering abortion will change their minds.
Speakers included several women who had become pregnant by rape, as well as people who were conceived by rape.
One woman talked about having gotten an abortion because she thought she had no choice to do otherwise.
She said that had she been given more time to think about it, she would have reconsidered.
“Not an exception”
At the rally, House Speaker Tim Jones (R-Eureka) acknowledged the criticism that the 72-hour waiting requirement includes no exception for pregnancies that are a result of rape or incest.
He said he had heard from people all over the state — from people who were conceived through an act of rape, and from women who became pregnant as a result of rape — who vigorously opposed being referred to as “an exception.”
“They are not exceptions,” Rep. Jones stated. “They are children of God.”
He said the issue of abortion is bigger than all people.
“How dare we as human beings try to decide how someone does or does not come into the world!” he stated.
Another speaker introduced her grandson, who would not have been born had it been left up to society’s standards, because of the circumstances surrounding his conception.
“My grandson is not an exception!” she exclaimed as she held the boy, who was to turn 3 in a couple of days. “We are proud that we chose life.”
The crowd joined in singing “Happy Birthday” to him.
State Rep. Jones noted that Democrats and Republicans worked together to get the 72-hour legislation enacted.
“It’s because of your convictions and beliefs that we are all here today,” he told the crowd. “Leaders and both parties realize that this is not for us; it is for all of the Missourians who value life.”
“This is the pro-life generation!” proclaimed Julia Pickert, freshman theology teacher at St. Pius X High School in Kansas City, as she pointed out the students from various high schools at the rally, including Helias Catholic High School in Jefferson City.
Brothers and sisters
Connie Eller, representing Our Lady's Inn and Missouri Blacks for Life, reminded the crowd that “anytime you talk about abortion, you must also remember that Jesus heals and forgives.”
She called abortion “a curse that removes blessings.”
“Abortion is the intentional ending of an unborn baby’s life and the breaking of his or her mother’s heart and soul,” she stated.
During the rally, an aggressive group of counter-protesters began shouting slogans down from the third floor of the rotunda.
Several entered the main floor of the rotunda and started talking over the speakers.
“We need to do a cheer now. We need to let the Sprit of God be heard,” Bridget Van Means of the pro-life group ThriVe St. Louis told Greg Robeson, the organization’s chief campaign speaker.
He began leading thundering antiphonal exchanges of “We love babies! Yes we do! We love babies! How ‘bout you?”
He then led them in chanting, “All in Christ! For pro-life!”
The counter-protestors quieted down and went away.
“We only have one common enemy,” Connie Eller of Missouri Blacks for Life and Our Lady's Inn in St. Louis, told the counter-protestors. “And it is not each other.”
Mr. Robeson said he wished they had closed with another cheer: “We love you!”
“We don’t see them as enemies but as brothers and sisters,” he stated.
Prayers for unity
Lawmakers had a massive agenda and had yet to take up the pro-life measures at 4 p.m. when rally participants gathered for a prayer service in St. Peter parish’s Selinger Center, across the street from the Capitol.
“We are here to support God in creating an atmosphere of victory and praise so that His angels and do their work during this coming battle over the override in the hours ahead,” Ms. Van Means stated.
Recalling St. Paul’s reminder to the Christians in Ephesus that “We are raised up with Christ and right now, we are seated with Him in heavenly places,” she called on everyone to pray from a place of confidence and peace.
“Let us remember that our life-affirming lawmakers are seated in heavenly places, and in a position to receive God’s riches and grace,” she stated.
Father Ralph Wright of the Benedictine Priory of St. Anselm in St. Louis, thanked God for changing people’s hearts and guiding their spirits.
He called upon St. Michael the Archangel to “keep Satan far from our legislative bodies and this particular House of Representatives and the Senate, so that the truth of life comes through.”
The priest gave thanks for the God’s overwhelming blessings and prayed that they would pour out “across the road this very day, so that the override we’ve been hoping and praying for will take place.”
Other participants invoked God’s mercy and kindness on all people — particularly those engaged in both sides of the pro-life debate.
“But today we stand in front of You,” Mr. Robeson prayed, “asking for the gift of joy — true spiritual joy that can only come in unity with the Holy Spirit and can only come as a transcendent gift from on high — the kind of gift that You can give as a fruit of the Holy Spirit.”
He prayed that God’s mercy would melt people’s hearts and turn them toward conversion.
“Life at all costs”
The MCC reported that that the override debates for the tax-credit law and the 72-hour waiting period started in the House of Representatives.
State Rep. Kevin Elmer (R-Nixa), sponsor of the 72-hour wait legislation, made the motion to pass HB 1307 into law, the governor’s veto notwithstanding.
A very emotional debate then began.
“I value life at all costs and I am glad we live in a country where we value and protect life. All lives are equal,” stated state Rep. Elmer, beginning the heated debate.
Opponents of the waiting period argued that this legislation is “really about not trusting women to put enough thought into a serious health decision,” said state Rep. Genise Montecillo (D-St. Louis).
Other women in the House stood up in support of the override.
“If you get a couple of more days to think about this pregnancy, think about where it’s going, you may change your mind (about having an abortion),” said state Rep. Kathie Conway (R-St. Charles).
Finally brought to a vote
After passage in the House, the reflection period bill faced an even bigger hurdle in the Missouri Senate.
“The Missouri Senate prides itself on allowing free and full debate and that’s great, but there comes a time when a vote should be taken,” stated Mr. Hoey.
It became clear that opponents would filibuster throughout the night and into the morning of Sept. 11.
Just after midnight, state Sen. David Sater (R-Cassville) invoked a rarely used parliamentary procedure in the Senate known as “moving the previous question” on HB 1307.
If adopted, such a motion requires an immediate vote on the legislation under consideration.
Ultimately, the Senate approved HB 1307.
The MCC reported that in addition to allowing more reflection time before an abortion decision, the General Assembly provided more funding to Missouri’s Alternatives to Abortion (ATA) program, as well as expanding tax credits for pregnancy help centers, maternity homes, and food pantries.
During the regular session, state legislators appropriated $2.03 million for Missouri’s ATA Program.
Gov. Nixon, vetoed $500,000 from the program, but lawmakers restored the funding during the veto session.
The ATA program helps pregnant women carry their child to term instead of having an abortion.
ATA also assists women in caring for their child or placing their child for adoption.
ATA aims to reduce abortions and aid in improving pregnancy outcomes by assisting women in need with medical and non-medical services.
For up to a year after the child is born, ATA also assists with job training and placement.
During the regular session, legislators also expanded existing state tax credits available when people donate to pregnancy resource centers, maternity homes, and food pantries.
The governor vetoed the expansion of these credits, but due to the legislative override of the governors’ veto, $2.5 million will be available for pregnancy help centers, $2.5 million will be available for maternity homes, and $1.75 million in tax credits will be available for food pantries, the MCC reported.
The tax credits encourage more donations to these agencies.
Donors can claim a state income tax credit for 50 percent of their contribution.
“Taken together, the ATA program and the tax credits provide powerful assistance to some of Missouri’s most vulnerable citizens,” Mr. Hoey stated.
State Rep. Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City) said the ATA programs might possibly be the best veto override that the General Assembly could bring about.
“I think it is heroic to choose life,” he stated. “ATA programs help women make that heroic choice and help them build a life to look forward to,” state Rep. Barnes said.
The legislation passed the House, and later went to the Senate, where it was approved without debate.
Karen Nolkemper, executive director of the St. Louis archdiocese’s Respect Life Apostolate, called the votes “a public affirmation that all life matters, even that of the most vulnerable among us.”
Pam Fichter, president of Missouri Right to Life (MRL), said pro-lifers throughout the state will be pleased to see both new laws go into effect.
“These bills work together to protect the women of Missouri and ensure that in this matter of life and death, they don't make a decision that will have a detrimental effect on them both physically and emotionally,” she stated.
MRL Executive Director Patty Skain said the 72-hour reflection period will give women more time to think about the decision she’s making.
“Obviously, not all of these women will choose life,” she stated. “But you need to make sure that we provide her with the resources and the information and the time to consider them — and that’s what this bill does, and that’s what this override will do for women.”
Representatives of the MCC, MRL, Campaign Missouri Life, and 40 Days for Life of Central Missouri contributed information to this article.