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Bill forbidding interference with crisis pregnancy centers passes Mo. House

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(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)
The chambers of the Missouri House of Representatives.

The Missouri House has passed legislation that would bar local governments from interfering with the day-to-day operations of alternatives to abortion agencies.

The bill would forbid municipalities from regulating advertising and advice given out by crisis pregnancy centers run by pro-life groups.  Supporters say they’re trying to protect the First Amendment free speech rights of volunteers and staff at the centers.  The sponsor, State Rep. Chuck Gatschenberger (R, Lake St. Louis), admits it’s a preemptive move.

“But what it has to do with is just setting it up, so crisis pregnancy centers don’t have to use their...money...to buy lawyers," Gatschenberger said.

Opponents argued that local governments should have the right to regulate non-profit groups within their jurisdictions.  State Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford (D, St. Louis) says some centers regularly give out false and misleading information.

“Sometimes women are led to believe that they’re going to a place where they’ll receive all-options information," Oxford said.  "Instead it’s a place that’s specifically trying to make sure that they choose not to have an abortion.”

The bill now goes to the Missouri Senate, with just three working days left in the 2012 regular session.

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.

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