JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — All Missouri hospitals would be required to offer rape kits under a bill passed by lawmakers Tuesday.
Currently, not every Missouri hospital has staff trained to gather evidence of sexual assault through rape kits. Under the bill, all licensed hospitals would be required to provide rape kits by 2023.
The measure, approved 150-3 by the state House, would give hospitals access to virtual and in-person training on how to perform rape kits. If a hospital does not have properly trained staff by then and a victim asks for a rape kit, a doctor or nurse with the statewide training program would be available to virtually coach them through an exam.
The requirement that all hospitals be able to provide exams would only take effect if the statewide training is available.
The health department could also issue year-long waivers “sparingly” if certain hospitals don’t have adequate internet access to the statewide training services.
The bill also would enact a “Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights” that says victims don’t have to pay for rape kits and can get a free shower after an exam, if that’s available.
Rape survivors would have the right to have a support person and a rape crisis center employee or volunteer present during interviews with police, prosecutors and defense attorneys. They could choose whether to speak with a male or female officer.
The measure now heads to Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s desk.
House lawmakers also on Tuesday sent Parson a wide-ranging bill that would limit certain lawsuits, generally known by supporters as “tort reform.”
One provision would limit home buyers from from suing builders under the state’s consumer-protection law if the home is under warranty.
Another provision would limit what are called punitive damages, which are awarded as a way to financially punish defendants for causing harm.
If signed by Parson, who typically supports limiting lawsuits, the bill would only allow punitive damages if the person suing “proves by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant intentionally harmed the plaintiff without just cause or acted with a deliberate and flagrant disregard for the safety of others.”
The measure passed the House 98-51.