JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A bill filed by District 124 Representative Rocky Miller today seeks to ensure that both parents of a minor are notified before their child receives an abortion.
The bill—House Bill 1192—touches on a hot-button issue, and one in which pro-life advocates have celebrated some legislative victories in 2013. But Miller says this bill is not his bid to draw controversy; rather, it touches an issue which is, for him, deeply personal.
Miller explains that eight years ago, he learned that his daughter, a minor, was pregnant. He was divorced, with joint custody of his daughter, and amid the swirling emotions of that moment, Miller says he was simply resolved that as long as she was in his custody, abortion would not be an option.
They all discussed the issue at length. When his daughter admitted she was not really clear on what an abortion was, Miller told her, “Go search it on the Internet.”
“When she came back downstairs, her face was gray,” he said.
The family arrived at a solution: Miller offered to let his daughter live—as much as she could—the life of a normal teenager, while he and his wife raised the child.
Eight years later, Miller expresses his joy at having a grandchild with whom he is very close. But he reflects on how things could have gone differently. Under current Missouri law, in a situation where a child’s parents are separated—or even just not communicating well—a serious medical procedure (an abortion) could be performed on that child with the knowledge and consent of only one parent or guardian.
A Complex Issue
Miller acknowledges the difficulty of legislating about abortion. He says he is personally very pro-life. But he thinks there are some places that legislators should not go. “I don't believe the government should legislate some medical procedures and research, including non-fetal stem cell research,” he noted.
But for House Bill 1192, Miller hopes legislators on both sides of the aisle can find common ground.
“[This bill] does not restrict anything,” he said. “It just makes sure the right people are informed of the welfare of their children.”
Miller’s is not the only bill for the Missouri 2014 legislative session that deals with abortion.
House Bill 1103, filed by District 108 Representative Chuck Gatschenberger seeks to specify “that the constitutions and laws of the United States and Missouri must protect the rights of an alternatives-to-abortion agency and its officers to freely engage in activities without interference,” according to the bill summary.
And House Bill 1148, filed by District 107 Representative Ron Hicks, if passed, would require that a woman seeking an abortion receive an ultrasound, which must then be reviewed with her, prior to the 24-hour waiting period for an abortion.
Whether any of these bills will find a willing Missouri legislature is yet to be seen. But if nearby states are any indication, pro-life bills in Missouri stand a good chance of becoming law.
In Texas, a measure pushed through by Republican legislators—in spite of a 13-hour filibuster by Democratic Senator Wendy Davis that gained the national spotlight—requires doctors who perform abortions at clinics to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. That law also bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy; as of October 2014, it will require all abortions to be performed in surgical facilities.
And a new Kansas law not only specifies life begins at fertilization: it also bans abortions based on the gender of the fetus and prevents Planned Parenthood from teaching sex education in schools.
Earlier this year, Governor Jay Nixon opted neither to veto nor to sign a new law that, since it went into effect on Aug. 28, requires a doctor to be in the room when a drug-induced abortion is performed.
But Miller has no idea how Nixon might respond to his bill. “I did not consider Nixon, when writing this bill,” he said. “I have found it very hard to determine how his office will react to legislation.”
As is typical of the legislative process, Miller’s bill will almost assuredly face challenges along its way through the house and senate. But at the heart of the matter is an issue about which Miller is clearly passionate, and one in which he has already shown his ability to transform challenges into opportunities.