Legal Perspectives of Bob Buckley
Will Rogers once said that no one’s property is safe while the legislature is in session. If he were alive today, he might be tempted to say that no man (or woman) is safe when the legislature is in session.
A bill, House Bill 2810, has been introduced by a Branson State representative that makes it illegal to terminate an ectopic pregnancy. In fact, the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG), an organization created after Roe v. Wade in 1973 said she does not consider performing standard medical procedures to terminate ectopic pregnancies to be the moral equivalent of an abortion. AAPLOG states that “in a small number of cases, a live embryo may be observed during ectopic pregnancy.”
“Unfortunately, this embryo will die in the near future if observation continues, and the mother’s life remains in imminent danger from life-threatening hemorrhage before and after embryo death.”
“The continuation of such a pregnancy cannot result in the survival of a baby and carries a very significant risk of maternal death or disability.”
A bill was introduced in Ohio in 2019 allowing doctors to re-implant ectopic pregnancies to save the life of an unborn child. The problem is that medical science does not recognize such a procedure. Obstetricians from the University of California, San Francisco wrote a journal article stating that ectopic transplantation does not exist.
They further stated, “Ectopic transplantation belongs in science fiction movies, not in laws governing reproductive health.”
The author of the Ohio bill later admitted that he had not researched the matter before introducing the bill. Ectopic pregnancy is the leading cause of maternal death in the first trimester.
Another bill proposed by a St. Louis representative allows a citizen to sue anyone who helps a Missouri resident obtain an abortion outside of Missouri. Texas has passed a similar law. The author of this bill proposed this bill as an amendment to other pro-life bills. The bill is an acknowledgment that there will always be states that will not make abortion illegal. The author of the Missouri bill is located in St. Louis and is trying to prevent women who cannot get legal abortions in Missouri from going to Illinois where it is legal.
A bill passed in 2019 made it illegal to perform an abortion late or performed at eight, 14 and 18 weeks or more, except in medical emergencies to save the life of the mother. The law also does not provide an exception for pregnancies caused by incest or rape. The mother cannot be prosecuted, but the doctor bears the burden of proving that it was indeed a medical emergency. This law was challenged, and a trial judge’s decision granting a preliminary injunction was appealed to the federal appeals court; the call is pending.
Although Roe v. Wade is overthrown as many hope it won’t make abortion illegal in every state. Abortion will be handled by state legislatures unless there is a federal law making abortion illegal, which is highly unlikely. I doubt the Missouri and Texas bills will withstand a constitutional challenge, but both laws demonstrate the fervor of the pro-life movement.
Another bill has been introduced which has nothing to do with abortion and which deals with the delay in bringing a lawsuit for bodily injury. The current time limit is five years and it has been that way for my entire legal career. Healthcare providers have always benefited from a shorter time limit — two years, which does not apply to minors, who have up to two years after turning 18.
It is suspected that the proposed bill is intended to limit the number of lawsuits and entrap the unwary who do not realize they have only two years to file a personal injury lawsuit. Unfortunately, the opposite will be true.
In many cases, the injured party still receives medical care for two years after the injury and the need for future treatment is uncertain. In such cases, a premature trial would result in a hasty judgment that would deprive the aggrieved party of a full measure of justice.
There are also many instances where attempts are made to settle cases without filing a lawsuit. Requiring such cases to be brought within two years will lead to more prosecutions. We will sue to protect the rights of our customers, and insurers will have to pay lawyers to defend these cases. Defense costs will unfortunately increase, which will consequently increase your insurance premiums.
I have had numerous cases in medical malpractice cases in which clients have called about negligence that occurred more than two years prior to the call. In these cases, the customer was unaware of the two-year time limit and was upset that a claim could not be made.
It is unjust for an aggrieved party to be denied justice. Of course, lawyers would benefit from a shorter time to file a lawsuit. I never understood why health care providers got a shorter time frame when all other professionals didn’t. This would change with the new legislation.
I used to be on a committee that looked at all the bills introduced in Jefferson City. It was a thankless task, but I can honestly say that I have never seen the kind of bill that is tabled today. What would Will Rogers say?
Bob Buckley is an attorney at Independence. Email him at [email protected]