ST. LOUIS (CN) - A ballot measure proposed for November 2008 that requires doctors to certify an imminent health risk to a woman before providing an abortion has drawn the ire of Planned Parenthood, which claims Gov. Matt Blunt has created a task force to illegalize abortions.
The measure, with the alarming title, the "Prevention of Coerced and Unsafe Abortion Act," would require doctors to certify that performing an abortion was necessary to prevent a woman's death or prevent a permanent disability.
Doctors who do not supply certification would be required to document that continuing the pregnancy would be more harmful than the psychological risks taken by women who undergo an abortion. Doctors who fail to make the certifications could be liable to various lawsuits from their patients, including suits for the wrongful death of the fetus, the measure states.
Paula Gianino, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, said the proposal is not designed to protect women.
"It is an attempt to ban abortion in Missouri," Gianino said. "This is the most extreme attempt to ban abortions in this country."
Gianino said the measure offers no exceptions for rape and requires a two-day waiting period for various bogus evaluations.
She said the measure is the result of the work of Blunt's "Task Force on the Impact of Abortion on Women" and its relationship with the Elliot Institute, which Gianino calls an extremist anti-abortion group based in Illinois.
Gianino said the task force has a relationship with Elliot Institute Director David Reardon, who was scheduled to speak at a recent task force meeting. Gianino said the engagement was canceled for an unknown reason, but said that Reardon's invitation indicates a relationship between the task force and the Elliot Institute.
"The task force has done nothing to help pass prevention-first initiatives and priorities that are proven to work in other states," Gianino said.
Planned Parenthood has until Monday to file a lawsuit against the measure.
Gianino said that lawsuit will be filed in Cole County Court, Jefferson City.
The Elliot Institute denies involvement with the measure. It says the Stop Forced Abortions Alliance, which the Elliot Institute supports, is sponsoring the measure. Reardon is also a member of the SFAA, but said in the statement that his actions on the measure do not reflect his work or the opinions of the Elliot Institute.
"The words 'ban', 'illegal', 'prohibit', and 'fine' are not in the initiative," Reardon said in the statement. "Neither I nor Stop Forced Abortions are advocating for a ban on abortions."
Blunt's press secretary, Jessica Robinson, said the governor will not comment on the measure until it is on the ballot. The measure needs 90,000 signatures to qualify.
Robinson denied a relationship between Blunt's task force and Reardon, saying, "There have been many organizations who have been invited to speak at task force meetings."
Robinson said Blunt's stance on abortion has been consistent through legislation he has signed into law designed to keep Planned Parenthood from teaching in schools and increasing the punishment for those who take minors across state borders for abortions.
"Gov. Blunt believes all lives are precious and that we must protect the most vulnerable," Robinson said.