Senate Democrats debate controversial abortion bills

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JEFFERSON CITY – Just hours after the end of a 27-hour long filibuster by Senate conservatives, Senate Democrats brought the chamber to a halt Wednesday afternoon over an anti-abortion measure known as the heartbeat bill.

Ten different Democrats took turns speaking on the senate floor to effectively prevent the hearing of what supporters are calling the “strongest pro-life bill in the country.”

The Democratic lawmakers expressed their concerns about House Bill 126, which would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is typically about six weeks into a pregnancy.

Another provision would prohibit abortion on the basis of race, sex or indication of Down Syndrome. It would also require both parents to be notified if a minor seeks an abortion.

Opponents who spoke Wednesday said they were concerned the bill does not have any exemption in cases of rape or incest."

“This is an unconscionable abuse of our power as a legislature that will have negative repercussions for the long term,” Sen. Jill Schupp, D-St. Louis, said.

Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-St. Louis, called the abortion bill “extreme.”

“Elections have consequences and, with new Supreme Court justices, there is a renewed attempt to overturn Roe V. Wade,” she said.

Senate Republicans say it is all about Missouri.

"I'm not a legal expert, but I believe what we are putting forward here strengthens our position on life," said Sen. Dave Schatz, R-St. Louis. "Anything we can do to protect life, I have always been in support of."

During his time on the floor, Sen. Brian Williams, D-St. Louis, brought up Missouri's high maternal and infant mortality rate.

“This is not a conversation or engagement around telling someone what they can or cannot do. This is a conversation around giving someone the option to do what they feel is best for their body and their life,” he said.

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, said her Republican colleagues are just pandering to voters.

“This isn’t about religion or what you believe," she said. "This is about pandering to your base. This is what’s trending today.”

On Twitter Wednesday afternoon, Sen. Bob Onder, R-St. Louis, called the Democrats actions a “silly procedural stunt.”

Schatz said, given the magnitude of the bill, the day's events were not surprising.

"This is where I expected it would be," Schatz said. "Anytime we have ever gone to this kind of bill, there have been long evenings." 

Gov. Mike Parson has expressed support for the abortion bill.

He tweeted Wednesday morning, saying, “It’s time to make Missouri the most Pro-Life state in the country.”