JEFFERSON CITY (BP)–Abortion on demand is no longer a reality in Missouri, thanks in part to a decision by Sen. Harold Caskey, a Missouri Baptist, not to change his vote.
Caskey, a Democrat, joined 24 other state senators in voting 25-8 on Sept. 11, to override Gov. Bob Holden’s veto of House Bill 156 requiring a 24-hour waiting period after a woman makes an initial appointment for an abortion. The Missouri House voted overwhelmingly — 120-35 — Sept. 10 to override the veto.
Caskey, who has a long record of voting for pro-life legislation, was one of three senators targeted by Gov. Bob Holden and pro-abortion Planned Parenthood as potential vote changes on the 24-hour bill. Holden made a personal visit to Caskey’s office the day before the vote to ask the senator to change.
“He [Caskey] has an absolutely spotless record on pro-life and was not going to change his mind,” said Kim Green, Caskey’s administrative assistant. “It’s never easy to go against your governor. You don’t like to do that to friends, but I think the governor understood that.
“This was not a political issue. It was something Sen. Caskey feels very strongly about. He has built his record and reputation on that side of the issue.”
The law is scheduled to take effect in 30 days. However, Planned Parenthood has announced it will file suit in federal and state courts in an attempt to keep the law from taking effect.
Missouri Baptist leaders were ecstatic about the anti-abortion vote. Susan Klein, lobbyist for Missouri Right-to-Life and wife of a Missouri Southern Baptist pastor, almost single-handedly lobbied the 24-hour bill through the legislature. Klein said she was thankful for the legislators in both the House and Senate “who stood for life and for the women of Missouri.”
“I’m thankful for both the Democrats and Republicans who voted to override. I went in and personally thanked Sen. Caskey for his vote.”
Klein said she also is appreciative of the support provided by the Missouri Baptist Convention and hundreds of Missouri Baptists who attended the Rally for Life at the state capitol Sept. 10.
“There has been a great outpouring of support from Missouri Baptists,” Klein said. “We certainly did not have that kind of support in 1999. We asked for it [from the MBC] but did not get it.”
Klein said she is not concerned about the bill being rejected by courts.
“Everything in that bill is based specifically on U.S. Supreme Court decisions,” she said. “Everything in that bill has already been approved by the court.”
The Missouri Senate wasted little time on the abortion bill during the veto session. Abortion-rights senators argued in futility that the legislation injects government into the private relationship between women and their doctors. They maintained that it would create an undue burden on women from rural areas who, they argued, might have trouble getting transportation or two days off from work.
But proponents of the override said inconvenience was not a strong enough reason to reject a 24-hour waiting period that includes medical counseling about the side effects of an abortion. They also pointed to research that suggests that many women, when given proper counseling and time to think, change their minds. Pro-life supporters say the 24-hour bill could save more than 5,000 Missouri babies from abortion each year. There were more than 12,266 abortions performed in Missouri in 2001.
The Missouri Family Network (MFN), headed by Kerry Messer, a Missouri Baptist, countered the argument with material made available to senators.
Messer said the new law will give women the opportunity to face the decision to abort before it is too late.
“As with many other choices, most folks often regret making all kinds of decisions,” Messer said. “Even a lot of elective surgery is reversible, but an abortion is permanent. Nothing can be done to undo the finality of an abortion. Women will now have the opportunity to reflect on a deeper understanding of their decision without the overt professional pressure of an abortion counselor.”
The veto override makes Missouri the 21st state to require some sort of abortion waiting period. Illinois has none, but neighboring states of Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky and Nebraska do.
Monte Shinkle, MBC president and pastor of Concord Baptist Church in Jefferson City, prayed the benediction at the Sept. 10 rally and said he is “very thankful our elected officials chose life over politics.”
He called it a victory in a much bigger war.
“We are a long way from overturning Roe v. Wade, but this is one of the steps along the way. We ought to be thankful because we haven’t had very many victories. We need to pay tribute to Susan Klein. She has done a great job for Missourians who believe in right to life,” Shinkle said.
Kenny Qualls, MBC associate executive director and head of the convention’s church and family equipping team, described the veto override as one victory in a war against abortion.
“I would ask all of our churches to continue praying for the right to life of all the unborn,” Qualls said. “And churches should be active in the fight to end abortions.
“Without apology, we as the MBC stand on the Word of God. God is the Creator and author of life. We rejoice in this great victory, and we pray that there will be thousands of babies saved. And we also pray that parents of babies who don’t know the Lord also will be saved.”
Sen. John Loudon, a Republican and a member of Ballwin Baptist Church, predicted more pro-life legislation is on the horizon.
“My bill that would allow parents to sue when somebody helps their child avoid Missouri law and get an abortion in a neighboring state got shoved to the back shelf by pro-life leaders this year,” Loudon said. “Now that we have accomplished the 24-hour wait bill, we can move on perhaps to passing this legislation next year.”
Loudon described the opposing view against a 24-hour wait as “cavalier.”
“They [Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortionists] say hurry up and get this procedure done rather than be a little cautious about this,” Loudon said. “Our country’s absence of this waiting period is unique to the western world. Most European countries, including France and England, require a waiting period for abortions.”
All legislators were made aware of strong support for the veto override at the Sept. 10 Rally for Life. An estimated 2,000 pro-life supporters, many wearing red shirts, gathered on the capitol south lawn for speaking, music and prayer. Planned Parenthood conducted a rally on the north side of the capitol with about 50 attending.
House members, who had already voted for the override, spoke to the pro-life crowd:
— “I voted pro-life because I wanted to set an example for my two kids,” said Brian Baker, R-Belton and a member of First Baptist Church in Belton.
— “I am a combat veteran of two wars. I have heard the words of dying men. Life is serious, and it is serious to take the life of an unborn child,” said Jack Jackson, R-Ellisville and a member of First Baptist Church in Ellisville.
After the rally, hundreds of the red shirts flooded the offices of senators, including Caskey’s, asking for a “yes” vote on the veto override. A spokesman in Caskey’s office said it was the largest influx of visitors for or against an issue during their period of employment with the senator.
Messer said the override vote is an example of what happens when legislative leadership “allows full and free debate.” Messer said this was not permitted before Republicans gained control of the Missouri House and Senate in 2002.
“I think this shows that despite the governor’s misguided objections righteousness will prevail,” Messer said.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: OVERRIDING CONCERN, SHINKLE’S STANCE and SIGNING ON.
Bob Baysinger is managing editor of The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention, online at www.mbcpathway.com.