JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri, July 15, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Missouri became the sixth state to ban abortions after 20 weeks gestation when Governor Jay Nixon allowed pro-life legislation restricting late-term abortions to become law yesterday.

In March the Missouri House passed the bill in an overwhelming 119-38 vote; similar legislation was passed in the Senate by a 27-5 vote in April.

The bill bans all late-term abortions after 20 weeks, the gestational age when experts say that an unborn baby can feel pain, with an exception for when the physical life of the mother is at risk and in cases of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.

Although Governor Nixon is pro-abortion, he has previously allowed pro-life bills to enter into law without either issuing a veto or giving his signature.  With the late-term abortion law, Nixon also allowed the 45-day waiting period to expire without vetoing or signing the legislation.

“This legislation was approved by an overwhelming, bi-partisan majority in both houses,” Governor Jay Nixon said yesterday. “Although people have differing views on this issue, it’s important that we work together to provide accurate health information, promote personal responsibility, protect women’s health, and improve foster care, adoption and child protection services.”

Even in cases when the mother’s life or bodily functions are in severe danger, the measure still requires an abortionist to make efforts to end the pregnancy in a way that maximizes the unborn child’s chances of survival. If the abortionist cannot do this, because the risks to the mother are too great, then he has to detail his reasons in an individual report to the state board of healing arts.

The doctor will also need a second concurring opinion from an independent physician with no “legal or financial affiliation or relationship” in order to perform the abortion on a viable baby. And finally, the abortionist will have to have another physician present when he induces the woman to end the pregnancy, who can then immediately take steps to try to save the viable unborn child born from the abortion.

Abortionists who deliberately violate the law could face a felony charge, carrying between one to seven years in prison, and incur fines between $10,000 and $50,000. Both abortionists and hospitals violating the law could lose their licenses to practice medicine or operate.

Missouri Right to Life applauded Governor Nixon’s decision to allow the bills to become law.

“We also thank the Senate and House sponsors of this legislation and the members from both parties who supported [the bills],” said Pam Fichter, President of Missouri Right to Life. “Because of Governor Nixon’s decision, Missouri law now protects babies in their last trimester before birth from the slaughter of abortion.  This decision saves lives and protects women from the risks of a late-term abortion. “

Missouri becomes the sixth state, with Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Idaho and Indiana to impose such a ban on late-term abortions after 20 weeks.  Other states are considering similar legislation.