Some Missouri lawmakers are renewing a call for the state to take an anti-abortion step that goes further than prominent anti-abortion groups want to go and that has not gained much traction in any state so far: a law that would allow homicide charges against women who obtain abortions.
Republicans in both the state House and Senate have introduced bills to be considered in the legislative session that begins next month to apply homicide laws on behalf of a victim who is an “unborn child at every stage of development.”
The bills would offer exceptions if the suspect is a woman who aborts a pregnancy after being coerced or threatened, or an abortion is provided by a physician to save the life of the pregnant woman.
“To me, it’s just about protecting a baby’s life like we do every other person’s life,” state Rep. Bob Titus, a first-term Republican who is sponsoring one of the measures, told The Associated Press. “The prosecution is just a consequence of taking an innocent human life.”
Titus said no charges would need to be brought under the bill, so long as people abide by the law already on the books that makes Missouri one of 14 states with bans in effect on abortions at all stages of pregnancy, with limited exceptions.
Titus said he has not discussed his bill with legislative leaders and did not base it on any model legislation, though it is aligned with a bill by Republican state Sen. Mike Moon, who represents the same area in southwestern Missouri.
Two groups are trying to get measures on ballots in Missouri in 2024 to legalize abortion in more cases. One would bar the government from infringing on abortion rights during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. The other, being crafted by moderate Republicans, would scale back restrictions to a lesser degree.
Abortion-related measures could be before voters in several states next year. Since last year, voters have sided with abortion rights in all seven states where the questions have been on the ballot.
The abortion landscape in the U.S. has been shifting quickly since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June 2022 overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling and ended a nationwide right to abortion.
Most Republican-controlled states have adopted bans or restrictions and most Democrat-run states have taken steps to protect access.
Prominent anti-abortion groups have generally opposed measures that would subject women who get abortions to charges.
Still, identical legislation was introduced earlier this year in Missouri and similar bills were introduced in 2023 in other states including Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky and South Carolina. None was advanced by a legislative committee.
The Kentucky measure died after it was opposed by the state's Republican attorney general and legislative leaders. At the time, GOP House Speaker David Osborne said the Republican majority in his chamber had never contemplated passing an abortion ban without any exceptions.
In South Carolina, more than 20 GOP lawmakers signed on as sponsors of a bill that would have classified abortion as homicide. As the bill garnered attention, several lawmakers withdrew their support. Lawmakers later adopted a ban on abortions when cardiac activity can be detected, generally around six weeks into a pregnancy – and often before women realize they are pregnant.