Missouri Republicans Rush to Criminalize Abortion Care

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R) praised Alabama Republicans’ passage of the country’s most restrictive abortion ban and said that he would sign a Missouri bill placing draconian new limits on abortion.

The anti-choice omnibus bill, known as the “Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act,” contains a cascade of abortion bans at various points in a pregnancy and would criminalize abortion at eight weeks’ gestation, with providers facing up to 15 years in prison. The legislation, one of the most restrictive policies in the United States, passed the state senate early Thursday morning and has to pass a final vote in the house before the legislative session’s 6 p.m. Friday deadline.

Parson held a press conference Wednesday evening to support GOP lawmakers’ push to pass the omnibus bill.

“The anti-abortion lobby is ramping up its coordinated effort to challenge women’s access to abortion, and Missouri is the latest target,” Michelle Kuppersmith, director of Equity Forward, said in a statement. “If Missouri legislators want to pass laws that control what should be a private decision between a woman and her doctor, we demand transparency around the creation of these laws.”

If the anti-choice legislation passes the house’s final vote, Equity Forward will file a request seeking communications from the bill’s sponsors and materials used in consideration of the legislation, she said.

“The state of health care in Missouri is abysmal,” M’Evie Mead, director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Missouri, said in a statement. “Gov. Parson is willfully aiding in the systematic downturn of health outcomes across our state, and banning safe, legal abortion is just the latest effort. Parson is willfully ignoring the syphilis outbreak and the rising maternal mortality rate happening on his watch. Shame on him for suggesting the government should have a say in when and whether someone becomes a parent.”

The bill passed the house in February; house lawmakers will have to vote on it it again because changes were made to the legislation. The bill now includes an eight-week ban, tax credits for donations to deceptive anti-choice clinics, and an expansion of the state’s forced parental consent law.

Under current law, Missouri allows abortions up to 22 weeks into pregnancy; 5,130 abortions were provided in Missouri in 2014, according to Guttmacher Institute data. The state has one clinic, based in St. Louis, that offers abortion care. There are around 1.17 million women of reproductive age in Missouri, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Meanwhile, Illinois has become an abortion care oasis for people in states like Missouri, where legislators have passed a litany of anti-choice laws.

Democrats put up a fight in the state senate with a nearly four-hour filibuster before the legislation was approved early Thursday morning. If the bill passes the house’s final vote, Missouri will join states like Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, and Georgia, where Republican legislative majorities have approved bans on abortion once a fetal “heartbeat” is detected, which can occur before most people know they are pregnant.

“At 4AM, the MO Senate passed an extreme bill banning abortion after 8 weeks, before many women learn they’re pregnant and w/o exceptions for rape, incest or human trafficking. Make no mistake, it’s an attempt at a de facto wholesale ban and to tee up the overturning of Roe,” state Sen. Lauren Arthur (D-Kansas City) tweeted.

Missouri Republicans’ legislative push comes as the anti-choice movement advances new state restrictions in hopes that conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn the landmark Roe v. Waderuling.

Alison Dreith, deputy director for Hope Clinic, which provides abortion care in Illinois, ten miles from downtown St. Louis, said they have seen a lot of people from Missouri and she expects their numbers to increase with the passage of this bill.

“Advocates and abortion providers will be working really hard to let the public know that abortion is still legal in this state no matter what happens today, as well as collaborating with one another to do crisis management planning to be able to support those Missourians who still need, want, deserve access to abortion care,” Dreith told Rewire.News. “That’s what’s both sad and beautiful about this — that women are very resourceful and will do whatever it takes to make sure that safe and legal abortion can still be accessed.”

“It is no coincidence Missouri politicians are moving to ban abortion care within hours of Alabama’s disastrous vote and days after Georgia enacted its own extreme ban. This is a deliberate attempt to bring a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, and to end the right to access safe, legal abortion in this country,” Dr. Leana Wen, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement. “Women: it’s time to rise up. Politicians have no place in our health care decisions. Every vote to ban abortion is a vote against us.”