Missouri Prevention of Coerced and Unsafe Abortion Act (2008)

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The Prevention of Coerced and Unsafe Abortion Act did not appear on the November 4, 2008 in Missouri as an initiated state statute. The Stop Forced Abortions Alliance, proponents of the measure, said in April 2008 that it was unlikely they would be able to gather sufficient valid signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot by May 2nd.[1]

Ballot summary

The initiative imposed screening requirements on physicians. It would have allowed women to hold a physician who performs an abortion liable for medical negligence if (a) pre-abortion screening did not include screening to determine if the woman is feeling pressured into an unwanted abortion or for other risk factors that are statistically associated with a higher rates of emotional or physical complications associated with abortion, (b) the results of this risk assessment were not shared with the woman and the doctor, c) the physician failed to document why the abortion is medically advisable in light of the risk assessment, and (d) the doctor failed to make a good faith effort to determine if other options might be available which would reduce the risks of continuing the pregnancy to a degree less than that associated with abortion.[2]

Under the measure, a doctor would have been held liable for negligence for failing to document every "psychological, emotional, demographic or situational" risk that has been associated with abortion in any study published in a peer-reviewed journal. The doctor would have to determine how each risk applied to the patient and give an evaluation of what the patient might face. Under the act, women would have two years from the time of the abortion to sue the doctor for up to $10,000 for every risk the doctor failed to determine.[3]

Official ballot title

The ballot title chosen by the Missouri Secretary of State read:

"Shall Missouri law be amended to make it illegal for a doctor to provide a woman with an abortion at any time during her pregnancy unless the doctor determines, either immediately or after extensive and documented emotional, psychological, physical, situational, and demographic evaluations, that the procedure is necessary to prevent imminent death or serious medical risks; and make it illegal for any person or entity to provide any drug, medical advice, or assistance for a woman to terminate her own pregnancy and subject them to a minimum fine of $800,000 plus attorney’s fees, regardless of any proof of injury?"

Fiscal Impact

The I&R regulations in Missouri required the Missouri Secretary of State to release a fiscal statement about each proposed ballot initiative prior to circulation of the petition, estimating how much money the measure would cost the State of Missouri, if enacted. The fiscal statement for this initiative reads:[4]

It is estimated this proposal will have no costs or savings to state or local governmental entities.


This measure failed to gather enough signatures for ballot status.


The initiative was sponsored by the Stop Forced Abortions Alliance, and was based on model legislation suggested by The Elliot Institute, a pro-life group based in Illinois.[5][6]

Paula Talley, a St. Louis woman who is listed as the group’s Missouri contact, said “I know abortion can damage women,” Talley said. “It causes depression, and they become promiscuous. It causes alcoholism and leads to suicide attempts. It’s a downward spiral. That’s typical.”[7]

The Stop Forced Abortions Alliance contended that the description of the initiative as a ban is incorrect in that it does not forbid any abortions but only closes a loophole in the law that makes it difficult for women to hold abortion providers liable for negligent preabortion screening and counseling.[8]

The group was organizing the ballot drive. Asking for a group of 120 volunteers to collect 1,000 signatures from each county.[9]


  • Feminist Majority
  • Planned Parenthood
  • Missouri affiliate of NARAL, the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League

Peter Brownlie, president of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri (PPSLR), said that the proposal appears to interfere with the way doctors practice medicine and present information to their patients.

The Feminist Majority opposed the measure, saying the initiative does not address rape or incest victims.[10]

NARAL's objection to the measure was that it includes a mandatory waiting period of 48 hours with no exception for women who are facing health problems from a pregnancy.


On Dec. 17, 2007, Mary Hickey and lawyers from Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit against the state of Missouri to block the initiative, saying that it is unconstitutional. The lawsuit also challenges the official fiscal impact statement prepared by the state, which says that the initiative would not impose costs on the state. The lawsuit says that there would be a cost to the state, because it would be burdened by a "resulting increase in the rates of self-induced, covert, and/or unsafe abortions, and/or the increase in the rates of childbirth in Missouri."[11]

Despite the lawsuit, the petition met circulating qualifications according the Missouri Secretary of State in February of 2008.[12]

Second Lawsuit Issued:
Because of the revised statute, the previous lawsuit was dropped. However, a new lawsuit was filed by Planned Parenthood for the revised statute, saying the measure is "purposely deceptive and vaguely written."[13]

David Reardon, Director of the Elliot Institute said the new proposal would not make abortions illegal but would allow civil lawsuits. According to him, the proposal does not prohibit physicians from performing abortions but requires them to explain all the potential risks. Paula Gianino, president and CEO of PPSLR, retorted, "What it really is a wolf in sheep's clothing that we believe is an attempt to take away a woman's right to make this decision and to really compromise the doctor-patient relationship."[14]

See also

External links