JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (CN) - A panel of Missouri lawmakers approved legislation that would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy unless two doctors conclude it is necessary to save the life of the mother. Doctors who violate the law would be guilty of a felony.
The House Health Care Policy Committee endorsed the bill by 9-1 vote.
The legislation, sponsored by House Majority Leader Tim Jones, R-Eureka, goes now to the full house; a similar bill is awaiting a Senate committee hearing.
The bill would require doctors to determine whether a fetus older than 20 weeks would be viable outside of the mother's womb.
That determination would be based on tests of the fetus' gestational age, weight and lung function.
The law would change the definition of viability to include life that can be sustained outside of the womb with or without life support, instead of life that can be continued indefinitely.
Doctors would have to report to the state why a fetus was found to be unviable.
In the case of saving the mother's life, a second doctor would have to confirm that the abortion is necessary.
Doctors who violate the law could face a year in prison and a 3-year suspension of their medical license.
The bill would not affect most of the state's abortions. In 2009, fewer than 5 percent of the more than 10,800 abortions in Missouri involved fetuses older than 17 weeks, according to the Department of Health and Senior Services. Of the 469 that did, only 77 were performed after the fetus was older than 21 weeks.
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