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New Abortion Restrictions Head To Missouri Governor's Office

Missouri already has some of the strictest abortion laws in the country. Now it's looking to place new requirements on the procedure, including having doctors meet with women seeking abortions before formal consent can be given and requiring the health department to hold unannounced annual inspections of abortion clinics.

Missouri's Senate approved the measure, 22-9, on Tuesday, endorsing ideas such as empowering the state attorney general to take on abortion cases by giving the office original jurisdiction that will allow it to pursue cases regardless of whether local or circuit prosecutors have taken up a case.

Gov. Eric Greitens is expected to sign the legislation into law.

The requirement for doctors has to do with the three-day waiting period that must precede an abortion. While existing law allows for either a physician or a "qualified professional" to meet with women to discuss medical risks and other factors, the new legislation would require either the referring doctor or the physician who will perform or induce the abortion to hold the conference.

"Supporters say the legislation, sponsored by Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester, will make clinics safer, while critics contend it will make it harder for women to obtain abortions," member station St. Louis Public Radio reports.

Another portion of the new rules would require all tissue removed during an abortion procedure to be sent to a pathologist for examination, rather than a "representative sample" of the tissue.

Issuing a statement on what he called a "pro-life victory," Greitens said, "Today is a great victory for pregnancy care centers that help women and children all over the state. I'm proud that many of Missouri's lawmakers stood strong to protect the lives of the innocent unborn and women's health."

The bill would take effect 90 days from the date of its passage, which was Tuesday.

Planned Parenthood, which operates women's health clinics and provides abortion services, criticized the legislation.

"This political theater is an expensive and ideological ploy to end abortion access in the state," said M'Evie Mead, director of policy and organizing for Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri. "The notion that this session has any benefit for patients' health and safety is nonsense, and Missourians are smart enough to know that."

The new legislation was passed during a special session of Missouri's legislature. Earlier this year, the state opted to cut off more than $8 million in federal funding for the Extended Women's Health Services program.

As Durrie Bouscaren reported in March for NPR:

"Federal law already prevents Medicaid from reimbursing providers for most abortions. Missouri's new measure rejects $8.3 million in federal funds for the women's health program, allowing the state to block state funds for other family planning services from going to abortion providers."

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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