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Abortion bill to be withdrawn after sponsor says it was ‘mischaracterized’


A lawmaker is withdrawing his bill after getting negative feedback from news coverage.

At least nine bills have been prefiled ahead of the 2024 legislative session suggesting changes to Missouri's abortion laws, including one that would make mothers who get abortions criminal homicide subjects. These and other bills will be officially introduced at the beginning of the 2024 legislative session on Jan. 3.

One of the bills filed by freshman legislator Rep. Bob Titus (R-Billings) would make it so a woman who receives an abortion in Missouri could face first-degree murder charges. He calls it the "Abolition of Abortion in Missouri Act."

Late Tuesday evening, Titus told ABC 17 he is withdrawing the bill after it was "mischaracterized" in the news.

"The media has mischaracterized my interest as hostile toward women," Titus said. "Nothing could be further from the truth. My heart breaks for the killing of children."

Missouri is one of 14 states with an abortion ban with minimal exceptions. In summer 2022, when Roe v. Wade was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, Missouri became the first state to implement a trigger law banning abortions from conception to birth.

The bill text says it protects the right to life by "protecting the lives of unborn persons with the same criminal and civil laws protecting the lives of born persons by repealing provisions that permit willful prenatal homicide or assault."

Planned Parenthood Greater Plains spokesperson Anamarie Rebori Simmons criticized the bill.

“These bills highlight what we already know to be true, anti-abortion lawmakers in Missouri harbor extreme views that have never been about the health and safety of those they serve, but rather control over a person’s body and choices," Simmons said.

Former county prosecutor Bill Tackett said this bill would not change much in Missouri law, because unborn babies are already considered persons under Missouri statute.

"Effective January 1, 1988, the laws of this state shall be interpreted and construed to acknowledge on behalf of the unborn child at every stage of development, all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of this state," Missouri State Statute reads.

Tackett said he and other prosecutors have used this statute to press charges. Tackett worked on a notorious case where three people were charged with first-degree assault against an unborn child for gruesomely attacking the pregnant mother. The legal battle in State vs. Kenney was from 1996 to 1998.

This year, a Moberly man was sentenced to 20 years in prison for a drunk driving crash that killed a pregnant woman and her unborn child. He was charged for the death of both the woman and unborn child.

First-degree murder is the most serious homicide charge. It denotes a premeditated murder. In Missouri, the state can pursue capital punishment -- the death penalty -- against someone with a first-degree murder charge.

The only thing this bill would add, Tackett said, is the ability to go after a first-degree murder charge and therefore seek the death penalty.

"You're not going to be seeking the death penalty," Tackett said. "And even if you did, you're not going to get it because you don't have the aggravators necessary to get there. "

There are efforts to change Missouri's abortion law through a vote of the people. At least two groups are trying to get abortion on the ballot. One has been going through a lengthy legal battle to come to an agreement on both the fiscal note and the ballot language.

Article Topic Follows: Missouri Politics

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Hannah Falcon

Hannah joined the ABC 17 News Team from Houston, Texas, in June 2021. She graduated from Texas A&M University. She was editor of her school newspaper and interned with KPRC in Houston. Hannah also spent a semester in Washington, D.C., and loves political reporting.


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