Missouri lawmakers have until 6 p.m. on May 17 to finish all of their business for the current legislative session, including passage of HB 126, known as the Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act.
Church and Missouri Senate leaders believe that’s plenty of time not just to get the bill passed but to do it well.
“We’re confident there’s enough time to get it done, but nothing is certain when it comes to legislation,” said Deacon Tyler McClay, executive director of the Missouri Catholic Conference (MCC), public policy agency of the state’s four Roman Catholic dioceses.
“We’re encouraging our MCC Legislative Network members to call their lawmakers in both houses and encourage them to do what they know is right,” said Deacon McClay. “Tell them we appreciate any support they’ve already given to moving this bill forward, and we’re counting on them to finish what’s been started.”
The Missouri Senate voted a slightly amended version of the bill, which contains numerous provisions for protecting pre-born babies and the health and safety of their mothers, out of committee in late April.
The Senate version contains all of the essentials presented in the version the Missouri House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed in February.
Barring a legal challenge, all of these provisions would take effect Aug. 28.
The bill contains a severability clause, which means that if any sections are struck down in court, the other sections would remain in force.
It also includes a series of ascending benchmarks in case the courts strike down the heartbeat provision, offering science and new technology as a rationale for curtailing abortion at each benchmark for fetal development.
Introduced by state Rep. Nick Schroer of O’Fallon at the beginning of the current legislative session in December, HB 126 caught even its strongest supporters by surprise with the momentum with which it moved through the House.
That took place around the time several states, including New York, were passing laws expanding access to abortion, allowing late-term abortions and letting non-doctors perform abortions.
People were appalled to hear lawmakers talk openly about letting babies die who survive attempts to abort them.
The Church has long upheld the objective universal truth that all human beings have a right to life from the first moment of their existence.
Deacon Samuel Lee, director of Campaign Life Missouri, noted that a baby’s discernable heartbeat has gotten people’s attention.
“People’s growing awareness of the presence of a heartbeat — I think that’s what’s fueling the enthusiasm for getting this bill passed,” he said.
He reiterated the need for Missouri’s citizens to call and encourage lawmakers to continue supporting HB 126 until it’s finally passed.
The state Constitution says that all bills that have not been passed by 6 p.m. on the first Friday following the second Monday in May are to be tabled.
If the version the Senate passes differs from the House version, the House will have to vote on it again.
All of this could take place very late in the session, so positive encouragement from constituents is key, said Deacon Lee.
“Then,” he suggested, “pray for your lawmakers and leave it in God’s hands.”
He noted that this is always a stressful time in Missouri’s legislature.
“They need us to hold them up in prayer for them to stand strong,” he said. “Encourage your prayer chains and prayer groups and people who go to Adoration to place them before God in prayer.”
“And be sure to thank Him,” Deacon Lee added.