JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri House on Tuesday passed a bill that would ban most abortions after a fetus is 20 weeks old, an effort that supporters say is aimed at preventing the procedure at a time in which they believe fetuses can feel pain.

House members voted 117-31 for the legislation that would allow exceptions only when a woman’s life is endangered or she is at “serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function, not including psychological or emotional conditions.”

Missouri currently bans abortions once a fetus is viable except to save the life of the mother or prevent harm to a “major bodily function.” State law now also requires abortion providers to give pregnant women information about the physical characteristics of the fetus and the fetus’ ability to feel pain by at least 22 weeks.

The Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights, said there were 18 states with laws banning most abortions at 20 weeks after fertilization as of the end of last year.

Republican backers in the House argued the Missouri bill would stop most abortions after the time in which they say the fetuses can feel pain, while Democratic opponents said women should have the choice to get abortions, especially if their fetuses develop extreme abnormalities.

Republican Rep. Chrissy Sommer, of St. Charles, said when she was pregnant a doctor told her that her son was not developing properly and that she could choose to have an abortion. Sommer said she continued with the pregnancy and later learned the physician mistakenly gave her another woman’s medical results.

“I could have literally terminated my son, who is now 20 and beautiful,” she said, adding that she hopes other women “choose life.”

Democratic Rep. Barbara Washington, of Kansas City, said when her sister was pregnant she was told her baby was healthy but then gave birth unexpectedly early to a child doctors predicted would never be able to talk, hear or see. Washington said her sister then was denied Medicaid health care before the baby died at 19 months old.

She said lawmakers should spend more money to help children in need after birth, and she urged colleagues to vote against the bill.

“No one’s saying that they have to have an abortion,” Washington said. “We’re saying that a woman has the statutory, Supreme Court right to choose.”

The measure now heads to the Senate.


Abortion bill is HB 1266 .