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Missouri special session

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens takes questions from the media after an anti abortion rally in the Statehouse in Jefferson City on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. Lawmakers were called back to special session by Gov. Greitens with the intent of modifying abortion laws in Missouri. Photo by David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

JEFFERSON CITY • Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’ administration is signaling that the governor wants even tougher restrictions on abortions than those endorsed by the Senate early Thursday morning.

The governor, who was in Washington on Thursday, did not specifically say he was unhappy with the Senate version, but his top policy advisor tweeted that he was hopeful the House would beef up the legislation as part of a special session on abortion called by the rookie chief executive, a Republican.

“The bill passed by the Senate tonight is a good start,” Greitens’ policy director Will Scharf wrote on Twitter. “Looking forward to seeing how the House can substantially improve it to protect life!”

After a day of closed-door negotiations, the Senate voted 20-8 to nullify a St. Louis ordinance that bans discrimination based on the procedure. The measure also includes stricter regulations, including annual inspections of abortion clinics.

Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin, said the Senate version was the product of intense bargaining among senators, some of whom are not happy with Greitens for calling the special session. If the House changes the measure, it would require the Senate to return to Jefferson City, triggering additional debate and more friction between senators and the governor.

Richard told the Post-Dispatch that the final bill was a compromise that was reached without having to use a parliamentary maneuver to force a vote.

“You can only do what you can do,” Richard said. “We did the best we could do with what we had.”

The measure approved by the Senate would give the state attorney general power to prosecute violations of abortion laws. To address concerns from local prosecutors, senators said the attorney general must give 10 days’ notice before acting.

The legislation also requires abortion clinics to submit fetal tissue samples to a pathologist within five days. The pathologist would then have 72 hours to respond. Currently there are no deadlines.

It also would give authority to the state Department of Health and Senior Services to review fetal tissue reports.

The proposed changes come as Missouri is already among the most stringent states when it comes to abortion restrictions. Women, for example, must wait 72 hours after receiving counseling before getting an abortion. The state also bans abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The House, meanwhile, is poised to take up the Senate bill in a committee on Monday, with an eye on moving a measure to the full House on Tuesday.

In a separate tweet, Scharf said it was “great working with pro-life leaders in the Senate” like Sens. Andrew Koenig of Manchester, Bob Onder of Lake Saint Louis, Paul Wieland of Imperial, Ed Emery of Lamar, Wayne Wallingford of Cape Girardeau and Dave Schatz of Sullivan.

“Disappointed in others,” Scharf later tweeted.

Richard said those comments appeared to be a slap in the face of other senators who voted for the measure, including Sen. Jeanie Riddle, R-Mokane.

Riddle had been absent from the negotiations for most of the day Thursday while she recovered from double knee replacement surgery. But, at midnight, she was brought to the Capitol to cast her vote.

“She was taking her health in jeopardy,” Richard said.

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