JEFFERSON CITY — When Rep. Rocky Miller’s daughter was 15, she told him she was pregnant.
It was a difficult conversation, Miller, R-Lake Ozark, said during a House Children and Families Committee hearing Monday. But he believes it was important because they were able to have a discussion, as they would on any major issue.
Miller’s daughter kept the baby, and Miller believes parents should be involved in minors’ pregnancy conversations.
Missouri law requires a physician to get written consent from the minor and one parent or guardian before performing an abortion. Miller is sponsoring legislation that would require the consenting parent to inform the other parent in writing.
Miller has sponsored similar bills each session since 2014.
“We made it over to the Senate several times, and it tends to bog down over there,” Miller said during the hearing. “This year we’re hoping to get some traction.”
The bill would not require certain parents to be notified, listing exceptions for circumstances such as those found guilty of a sexual offense or a crime against a child, or those whose custodial rights have been terminated. The bill also excludes cases in which an order of protection was issued against the other parent or where a court deemed the other parent “mentally incompetent or incapacitated.”
The exceptions each require some level of official involvement, and some committee members worried that the wording didn’t encompass all situations where it might be dangerous to inform both parents.
“I’m concerned about having to have the court involved in order to not advise the abusive parent,” Rep. Sarah Unsicker, D-Shrewsbury, said.
Rep. Ian Mackey, D-St. Louis, echoed the concern, saying that not everyone is comfortable turning to the judicial system when they’re in an abusive situation and that minors might have a harder time doing so.
Representatives of Missouri Right to Life, Campaign Life Missouri, Missouri Family Network and the Missouri Catholic Conference spoke in favor of the bill.
Sean Whiting of Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri spoke against the bill and submitted opposition testimony from the ACLU.
The committee also heard a bill that would allow pharmacists to prescribe oral contraceptives to women older than 18.
Bill sponsor Rep. Sheila Solon, R-St. Joseph, filed similar legislation in 2016, which passed in the House before dying in a Senate committee.
“This is a pro-life, pro-woman, common-sense approach to bringing down Medicaid costs to our state and helping to reduce the number of abortions in our state,” Solon said.
Representatives from organizations including the Missouri Pharmacy Association, the Missouri Family Health Council and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City spoke in favor of the bill.
“Fifty-one percent of pregnancies in the state of Missouri are unintended, and of that, more than half end up being covered by Medicaid,” said Erin Elliot, Missouri Family Health Council policy director. “So, we think this is a great cost-saving step to enable the widening of the safety net.”
Heidi Geisbuhler Sutherland with the Missouri State Medical Association said the organization was concerned with pharmacists’ training in prescribing the medication, about pharmacists’ liability and about medical care for women.
But Sutherland said that based on conversations with Solon, the organization thought its concerns would be addressed in the bill as it is revised.
Supervising editor is Mark Horvit.