Last week the Missouri House advanced legislation which seeks to prevent fetal tissue from being donated for medical or scientific use. House bills 2069 and 2371 specifically prohibit an individual from knowingly donating fetal organs or tissue to any person or entity for experimental, therapeutic, or any research purpose. These bills stem from the recommendations of two House interim committees that met to investigate allegations Planned Parenthood sold the tissue and organs from aborted fetuses.
Last year an anti-abortion group released a series of videos that appeared to show Planned Parenthood executives discussing how the organization disposes of fetal remains. Pro-life activists claim the video proved beyond a doubt that Planned Parenthood was selling the tissue for profit, which is illegal. However, Planned Parenthood claimed these allegations were not true and any costs associated with the tissue were only to recover related expenses.
In addition to placing a ban on the donations of fetal tissue from abortions, the legislation that was approved by the House would also establish a tracking system for how fetal remains are disposed. It would require all tissue removed during an abortion to be sent to a pathologist. Currently, only a representative sample of the tissue removed at the time of the abortion is required to be sent. Under the proposed new bill, each specimen of fetal tissue must be given its own identification number to allow that sample to be tracked from the abortion facility or hospital where the procedure was performed, to the pathologist lab, and then on to the final disposal location. House bills 2069 and 2371 would also require the Department of Health and Senior Services to conduct annual, unannounced on-site inspections and investigations of abortion facilities.
Missouri’s General Assembly has passed some of the toughest anti-abortion legislation in the nation. Today Planned Parenthood operates only one abortion-performing clinic—in St. Louis. It is the consensus of many legislators that no tax dollars should go to any abortion provider. The legislation is now on its way to the Senate.
In addition to the fetal tissue legislation, last week the Missouri House gave overwhelming support to legislation that would provide additional assistance to veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). House members approved HB 1428 that seeks to change our state’s law to allow mental health service dogs to be on the same level as traditional service dogs. This bill revises the definition of service dogs to include animals that provide support or therapeutic functions for individuals with psychiatric or mental disabilities.
The mental health service dog bill’s sponsor said the change is necessary to provide additional support to the many combat veterans who return home with PTSD or with a traumatic brain injury. It was also noted that the global war on terror has created approximately 2.7 million veterans, with 20 percent of those suffering from PTSD and more than an estimated 300,000 suffering from a traumatic brain injury. By adding the definition of mental health service dogs to the current statute, it is hoped that these returning veterans suffering from PTSD and others with mental health problems can benefit from the assistance of service dogs. Therapeutic dogs can guide a disoriented individual to safety, find a family member for assistance, or stop Obsessive Compulsive Disorder behaviors. Because of the many benefits of mental health service dogs, this bill puts them on the same level as traditional service dogs.
For a final note, this past week House members replaced their dress shoes with sneakers. On Wednesday, some House members wore their favorite tennis shoes as a show of support for the American Cancer Society’s annual “Wear Your Sneakers” day at the Capitol. Legislators wore sneakers with their business attire as a reminder of the importance of cancer prevention and early detection.
The American Cancer Society pointed out that through screening and research, numerous lives have been spared. They tell us that cancer touches virtually everyone’s lives, as one in two men and one in three women will develop cancer in their lifetimes. In 2016 it is estimated more than 34,000 Missourians will hear those dreaded words, “You have cancer.” Fortunately, early screening increases the chances of detecting cancer when it is still in the curable or very treatable stage.
The 2016 legislative session is rapidly winding down and there are still numerous bills coming to the House floor for debate and discussion. This year’s load of bills has been very large, and we have put in some long, long days (with short nights) trying to handle as many of them as possible. Despite this, it is starting to look like there is a good possibility we may not get through all of them before the gavel comes down for the final time this session, though we will certainly try our best to do so.