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          Clinic changes policies in response to Missouri law

Scott Cousins
Of the Suburban Journals

Granite City Press Record


While officials at the Hope Clinic For Women made immediate changes in the clinic's policies to comply with a new law limiting abortion in Missouri , an anti-abortion activist said the new law does nothing.

On Thursday, Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt signed the Health Endangerment Act.

The law will allow lawsuits against individuals or agencies that assist minors in obtaining abortions without their parents' or guardians' consent.

Missouri requires parental consent for girls 17 and under to obtain abortions. Illinois does not require consent.

"We are complying with Missouri 's law on parental consent," said Sally Burgess, executive director of the Hope Clinic, located in Granite City .

She said the clinic now asks for identification and requires minors from Missouri to have at least one parent or guardian present.

Burgess said that although it appeared that the legislation was directly aimed at the Hope Clinic, it will not have a large effect "once we figure out the logistics."

Burgess said she had heard that the new regulations impacted one girl who came into the clinic so far, but had not been able to confirm that.

She said the biggest concern was how to help teen-age girls who cannot talk to their parents about an unwanted pregnancy, or who could face potential violence if she told her parents.

"We're not sure what we can do to help a teen in that situation," Burgess said.

Burgess said the clinic was "going to watch this carefully," but did not plan to take any legal action at this time.

"I don't understand how one state can dictate to another state," she said.

While the Hope Clinic was not planning legal action, Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri and Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region have already filed a legal challenge to the new law.

"We are concerned about the health and safety of teens and for all women in Missouri ," said Paula Gianino, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region. "Planned Parenthood pledges to do everything we can through the courts to challenge this law."

The suit was filed in Jackson County, Mo., and seeks an immediate temporary restraining order to prevent the law from being enforced.

"This unprecedented and dangerous law attempts to impose Missouri 's legal restrictions on Missouri teens when they travel outside the state," said Eve Gartner, senior staff attorney for Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "The law threatens health care providers within and outside Missouri who provide accurate medical information and/or safe, legal health care services to a young person in need. The law violates the Missouri Constitution and the U.S. Constitution and puts young people at risk."

Angela Michael of Small Victories, a Highland-based anti-abortion group and one of the more vocal regular protestors at the Hope Clinic, said she supported the bill, and went to Jefferson City to testify in behalf of its passage, but believes it will accomplish nothing.

"It's useless. It wouldn't be enforced," she said Friday. "I've been down there for 12 years, and I've not seen one law being enforced."

She cited claims by her group and other activists that state the clinic ignores mandated reporting laws on sexual assault and abuse involving minor girls and adult men who father their children.

"What young girl is going to go into court in front of a judge and admit they had an abortion?" she asked.

Michael also said the bill has "no teeth" because it only allows civil suits to be filed and doesn't have any criminal penalties.

She said the bill was proposed by people with "good intentions" but "it's not going to prevent one girl (from obtaining an abortion)."

Other local anti-abortion groups could not be reached for comment.

E-mail: scousins@yourjournal.com

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To support and encourage Daniel and Angela please contact them - 
smallvictories@juno.com (email), 618-654-5800 (phone), 
or write them; Small Victories P.O. Box 143 Highland, IL 62249.