While restrictions on abortion access in Missouri have steadily tightened, nearly 9,800 Missourians traveled to Kansas and Illinois for abortions in 2020, compared to just 167 procedures that took place there. within state lines that year.
That number could drop further if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade of 1973 who legalized abortion – causing a Missouri law to go into effect which would prohibit the procedure except in a medical emergency.
And after years of limiting abortion access in Missouri, lawmakers are now considering policy for a world in which constitutional protections for the procedure are gone.
“Nationally, everyone is looking to a post-Roe world,” said Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold. “In Missouri, we’re almost there already.”
Proposals have been launched this legislative session to allow legal action to be taken against anyone helping Missourians to obtain an abortion across state lines, to target distribution of abortifacient drugs and to declare that the right to abortion does not exist in the state constitution.
But as the nation waits in anticipation of the ruling from the nation’s highest court, the GOP-controlled Missouri Legislature finds itself at its own inflection point.
“How much are you making now, as opposed to how much are you making later when states have more freedom to regulate abortion than they do now?” said Sam Lee, longtime lobbyist for Campaign Life Missouri. “That’s a moot point.”
Proposals that mirror Texas’ recent abortion restrictions have grabbed national headlines, but have yet to gain traction in the legislature – which is more than halfway through the session that ends on the 13th. may.
Meanwhile, a years-long effort to limit public funds to abortion providers and their affiliates has progressed steadily, once again stalling reproductive health providers and the state. in litigation.
“Not only are Missouri politicians showing us what it’s going to look like after Roe v. Wade,” said Bonyen Lee-Gilmore, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, “but they’re also showing us their intention to tackle all other comprehensive reproductive health care.
Lee called Planned Parenthood’s fundraising effort “the most likely pro-life bill to pass this year.”
“It’s pretty much universal among every Republican I’ve spoken to, no matter what caucus they’re in or what their name is,” he said. “This is the law they want to pass. And I’ve seen this discussed many times.
Proposals this session
Republican lawmakers opened new fronts this session, targeting abortions occurring outside state lines and introducing measures modeled on Texas law prohibiting abortion after detection of fetal heart activity – which can take up to six weeks before most women know they are pregnant.
While Idaho was the first to sign legislation mirroring Texas lawwhether Missouri lawmakers are okay with adopting a similar private enforcement mechanism remains to be seen.
On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Seniors, Families, Veterans Affairs and Military Affairs debated a bill that would reflect Texas law and another who allow women to be held criminally responsible “for the death or attempted death of her child” for having had an abortion.
A series of supporters on Wednesday urged lawmakers to ban abortion in its entirety. While opponents, like Maggie Olivia, chief policy officer at Pro-Choice Missouri, said allowing private lawsuits would give abusers financial incentives to surveil their victims.
A bill introduced by Senator Andrew KoenigR-Manchester, which has yet to be heard in committee, would also extend Missouri abortion laws beyond state lines in certain circumstances, such as when the proceeding involves a Missouri resident, that the projects of law also define as “an unborn child”.
Last week, the House avoided a vote on an amendment proposed by Coleman that would have made it illegal to perform or “aid or abet” an abortion on a Missouri resident – regardless of where the procedure takes place. product. The provision, which would have allowed exceptions for life-threatening conditions, would have been enforced by private prosecutions, not the state.
A rare procedural gesture was used to crush Coleman’s tongue.
Bills passed this session may “start to be challenged to see where those parameters are,” in a post-Roe v. Wade, Coleman said.
But not all anti-abortion supporters agree.
Lee said he doesn’t believe Texas’ private enforcement mechanism is the right tactic, noting that Democratic states, like California, have used the same concept. propose legislation allowing individuals to sue gun manufacturers.
“I don’t think that’s a sustainable approach,” Lee said. “I don’t think in the long run that’s an approach the courts are going to favor.”
Additionally, under the state’s current enforcement, abortions have plummeted, Lee said. According to preliminary data, only 151 abortions took place in Missouri last year, which includes those in hospitals, said Lisa Cox, spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Senior Services.
The constitutionality of a 2019 Missouri law that banned abortions after eight weeks has yet to be decided as the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in St. Louis weighs the arguments. Lee said it would be premature to pass new laws that might repeal or interfere with those laws before the case is decided.
When asked during Wednesday’s committee hearing whether language allowing private enforcement would affect the law in court, Susan Klein, Executive Director of Missouri Right to Life said, “we don’t believe that would be the case.”
Amendment to the Missouri Constitution
If Roe v. Wade is overturned and a near-total ban on abortions under provisions of Missouri’s 2019 law goes into effect, abortion advocates expect a legal challenge to be imminent.
In anticipation of just one, a handful of bills introduced this session would allow voters to decide whether or not to amend the Missouri Constitution to state that: “Nothing in this constitution shall be construed as guaranteeing or protecting the right to ‘abortion.”
“I believe that’s an ounce of caution against a militant courtroom in this area,” said Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis and sponsor of RDS 53said Wednesday during a committee hearing.
In Kansas, voters will be asked in August whether to change the state constitution to overturn a Kansas Supreme Court ruling that found women had a constitutional right to abortion in Kansas. Meanwhile, in anticipation of the possible overthrow of Roe v. Wade, Democratic strongholds moved in the opposite direction, with Colorado claiming that an abortion right exists in their state under a new law signed Monday.
Koenig, whose invoice also addresses taxpayer funds earmarked for abortion, said the language would make the Missouri Constitution “abortion neutral” and leave authority over abortion policy in the hands of lawmakers.
“To me, that’s not exactly neutral,” said Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur.
Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers have continued their efforts to block taxpayer funds from going to abortion providers and their affiliates.
Thursday, the Missouri House passed budget bills including $0 items for abortion providers and their affiliates and barred them from being reimbursed by the state Medicaid program. A similar layout signed by Governor Mike Parson in a supplementary budget bill has already been met with a Planned Parenthood lawsuit.
But lawmakers still hope to adopt similar language in the law, noting the Missouri Supreme Court previously invalidated previous attempts to do so through the state budget. Provisions have been included in an omnibus bill on abortion walked out of the House on Wednesday.
“I don’t think when you’re talking about saving lives,” Klein said, “you should only have one lead.”
Missouri’s Medicaid program only pays for abortions in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. Reproductive health advocates have pointed out that limiting funding to Planned Parenthood providers will expand a safety net that is already over-capacity.
In 2021, the two Planned Parenthood health centers that participated in Missouri Family Health Council family planning services served 52% of the nearly 44,000 patients seen, said Michelle Trupiano, executive director of the nonprofit organization. .
M’Evie Mead, director of Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri, said it would put people in a “terrible but intentional stalemate” in a world where abortion is illegal if Roe v. Wade is canceled.
“They can no longer access care from the provider of their choice where they can actually prevent an unwanted pregnancy or maintain good health,” Mead said, “and if they inadvertently become pregnant, they have no recourse.” .
States like Kansas and Illinois that have abortion rights enshrined in their state laws may be bolstered as abortion safe havens if Roe v. Wade is canceled, and clinics have already seen their numbers increase as access is restricted in other states.
Planned Parenthood Great Plains clinics in Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas saw more than 1,100 patients from Texas from September to December 2021 after the passage of Texas’ fetal heart activity law, said a spokesperson, compared to just 50 Texans during the same period a year earlier.
In the same way, a regional logistics center in Fairview Heights just across the Illinois-Missouri border, saw a 133% increase in patients traveling from outside Missouri and Illinois, Lee-Gillmore said.
“Understand, how do we bring the patient to the health center? Where are they staying while they are here? Do they have money to eat? Lee-Gillmore said, “All of these issues are now a regular part of abortion care.”