The Associated Press
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 7
Nixon boldly vetoes particularly cruel abortion restriction:
In his 27 years in public office in Missouri, Jay Nixon has been all over the map on the subject of abortion.
Running for the state Senate in 1986, and for U.S. Senate in 1988, he said he was pro-life. He ran several subsequent campaigns for state and federal office as a pro-choice candidate, or at least someone willing to abide by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade.
As the state’s attorney general for 16 years beginning in 1993, he was called upon to defend several laws restricting abortion. Most notably, in Reproductive Health Services v. Nixon in 2006, the Missouri Supreme Court upheld the state constitutionality of a bill imposing a 24-hour waiting period before women could obtain an abortion.
Nearly every year, the Legislature tries to impose some new restriction on abortion. As governor since 2009, Mr. Nixon three times has used a punting provision in the state constitution to allow bills restricting abortion to become law without his signature.
All of which makes what Mr. Nixon did last week not only surprising, but startling in its boldness. He vetoed House Bill 1307, this year’s particularly cruel abortion restriction bill.
It would have tripled the waiting period before obtaining an abortion to 72 hours, with no exception for rape or incest, giving Missouri the most restrictive abortion law in the country.
Mr. Nixon did not mince words in his veto message, calling the bill a “disrespectful measure that would unnecessarily prolong the suffering of rape and incest victims and jeopardize the health and well-being of women.”
Mr. Nixon wrote that “underlying this bill and the expansion of the governmental interference it would mandate is a paternalistic presumption that rape and incest victims are somehow unable to grasp the horror that has befallen them. …”
Further, he said, a longer waiting period “serves no demonstrable purpose other than to create emotional and financial hardships for women who have undoubtedly already spent considerable time wrestling with perhaps the most difficult decision they may ever have to make. … This is insulting to women. …”
Yes it is.
The Legislature in September’s veto session no doubt will add further insult by trying to override the veto. It’s long past time for lawmakers in a state that now has but a single abortion clinic, a 24-hour waiting period and other men-know-best restrictions to do what Mr. Nixon learned to do: Butt out of decisions that are very much not their business.
The Kansas City Star, July 3
Shame again falls on Catholic leadership:
A scathing arbitration decision released recently adds to the shame of Bishop Robert Finn’s leadership of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.
The stunning denunciation hit area Catholics almost six years after the church signed a $10 million settlement with 47 people who said they or a family member were sexually abused by priests.
Yet arbitrator Hollis Hanover, who handled a breach of contract lawsuit filed in 2011 that grew out of the 2008 settlement, concluded that top Catholic officials purposefully did not carry through on some pledges.
Hanover awarded $1.1 million to most of the same plaintiffs in the original lawsuit. He essentially said the church had failed to live up to its promise to take aggressive actions to deal with future sexual abuse of children. Church members once again are faced with paying for the mistakes Finn and others have made.
With that dereliction of duty, Hanover said, the church imposed even more emotional damage on the plaintiffs. They had expected that the problems they suffered would lead to wholesale positive changes by the church. Instead, he wrote, the diocese “had once again sacrificed the welfare of children so that it could ‘save the priesthood’ of a criminal, in this case a pornographer.”
The reference is to Father Shawn Ratigan and to the failure by Finn and others in the diocese to promptly report that lewd images of young children had been found on Ratigan’s computer in 2010. Eventually, Ratigan pleaded guilty to child pornography charges and was sentenced to 50 years in prison.
In 2012, Bishop Finn was found guilty by a Jackson County judge of failing to report suspicions of child abuse to authorities. He got off easy, sentenced to two years of probation.
Finn’s criminal conviction undermined his credibility to remain bishop. For the good of Catholic congregations throughout Kansas City and the region, many expected him to resign. He refused. And in the latest case, lawyers for the diocese are fighting to throw out the award, saying Hanover exceeded his authority in the matter.
The 2008 settlement was supposed to put a stop to misdeeds.
Local Catholics again are paying a steep price, while Finn defiantly stays on as a bishop. Even a forgiving church can’t be expected to keep paying for failures of leadership. Finn’s best choice — for the church, its members and their children — is resignation.
The Joplin Globe, July 2
Signed, sealed, delivered:
We won’t tell you again how supportive we are of the passing of legislation that now requires radiologists to include information on mammograms that could save a woman’s life.
We won’t tell you again how ridiculous we find it that this legislation, which calls for one simple extra step, previously failed in Missouri. After all, the bill only asked that women with dense breasts be told that they may want to seek additional screening.
And we won’t tell you again how well bipartisan efforts can work in this state when politicians forget about party lines in the face of important lifesaving legislation.
But we will tell you that we are celebrating the fact that Gov. Jay Nixon traveled to Joplin to sign the bill at Freeman Hospital West, where he was joined by Patty Richard, the woman who pushed this bill with the help of her husband, Sen. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, as well as Sen. Dan Brown, R-Rolla, and Rep. Sue Allen, R-Town and Country.
Patty Richard learned about the problems associated with dense breast tissue while helping a close friend deal with breast cancer. She made passage of this legislation a personal mission, testifying before committees and likely collaring lawmakers in the hall to make sure they were aware of the importance of their vote.
The bill passed with nearly unanimous support. Patty Richard’s work came to fruition with the Democratic governor’s signature on July 1.
Patty Richard was also an advocate for legislation in Missouri that required insurance companies cover behavioral therapy costs for children with autism.
Missouri now takes its place as the 19th state to require radiologists to alert women with dense breasts that other screening options are available.
It’s about time.
Jefferson City News Tribune, July 5
Healthy approach pairs liaisons, law enforcement:
An initiative to improve mental health services is both enlightened and cost-effective.
The creation of community health liaisons is a component of Gov. Jay Nixon’s 2013 program titled “Caring for Missourians: Mental Health Initiative.”
Under the initiative, local law enforcement agencies and courts partner with mental health professionals to end a cycle of incarceration by providing access and treatment. In Cole and four other Central Missouri counties, the liaison is Ted Solomon of Pathways Community Health.
Law enforcement officials are acutely aware of the revolving door of incarceration for people with untreated mental health disorders.
“Jail has become a repository for the mentally ill in most cases,” said Cole County Sheriff Greg White. “And until government gets a hand on the fact that a chemical imbalance is an illness the same as a broken arm is, it will stay that way.”
The initiative contains two laudable goals: decreasing societal costs and treating individual mental health disorders.
Debra Walker, a public affairs officer for the Missouri Department of Mental Health, addressed both when she said: “The program is reducing unnecessary jail, prison and hospital stays and improves outcomes for individuals with behavioral health issues.”
Solomon also acknowledged that “a big part of the liaison project is to try to save money because it costs a lot more to incarcerate people than it does to treat them.”
A greater challenge — for both law enforcement and mental health professionals — is to promote wellness by linking people in need to available resources and treatment.
Incarceration of people suffering mental health disorders is a costly, stopgap response to an ongoing problem.
The liaison initiative joins law enforcement officers and mental health professionals to promote a healthy alternative to the deplorable cycle of incarceration.