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Missouri Politicians are Determined to Harm Women, All at Taxpayer Expense

Missouri Governor Eric Greitens has just signed an extreme and harmful piece of legislation (SB 5) into law that the state legislature passed on Tuesday. This bill is set to go into effect 90 days from its passage out of the legislature.

Governor Greitens called this “extraordinary session,” which has cost taxpayers at least $73,000, specifically because he wanted the legislature to place even more restrictions on abortion and to block a St. Louis law from February that protects women from discrimination based on their reproductive health decisions. Missouri politicians (some of whom you may remember laughing on the Senate floor about how women should go to the zoo for abortions) have clearly jumped at the second chance to roll back abortion access even further this year, and now the Governor has gotten his wish and signed a bill into law that will harm and burden Missourians seeking reproductive health care, especially abortion.

This Bill Imposes Requirements on Providers Meant to Close the One Remaining Clinic and Shame and Burden Patients

The bill requires abortion providers to comply with medically unnecessary and burdensome regulations going far beyond what is necessary to protect patient health and what is required of other health care providers. This bill adds to the already onerous abortion regulations in Missouri and is aimed at shutting down Missouri’s last remaining abortion clinic.

The bill also includes requirements that are ultimately intended to shame patients who have already decided to have an abortion, and to deter them from obtaining one. For example, the bill forces providers to give patients medically unnecessary and inaccurate materials, including a state-produced printed booklet “prominently” displaying the following statement: “The life of each human being begins at conception. Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being.”

Meanwhile, the bill goes out of its way to promote crisis pregnancy centers, which are well known in Missouri for lying to and misleading pregnant patients who have already decided to have an abortion.

Proponents of this bill claim that it will protect women’s health. But how many times do we have to point to the vast medical and social science research, judicial decisions (including from the U.S. Supreme Court), investigative journalism, and countless patient testimonies to debunk politicians’ claims that abortion restrictions have anything to do with women’s health? Abortion restrictions do not promote patient health: they harm patient health. Abortion is an extremely safe procedure, and restrictions like these:

  • stigmatize people’s decisions to have an abortion;
  • place burdens on abortion providers and patients that cause clinics to close (Missouri already has such strict abortion laws that there is only one abortion clinic left in the state); and
  • force abortion clinics to expend resources to comply with unnecessary requirements – resources that would be better spent providing people with the care they need.

This Bill Undermines St. Louis’ Ability to Protect Its Residents from Discrimination

SB 5 also revives an effort which failed during the regular 2017 legislative session – to invalidate the St. Louis law that protects its residents from employers who want to fire their employees for making personal decisions – like using birth control or getting pregnant– with which the boss doesn’t agree. The bill just passed by the Missouri legislature is intended to stop any subdivision of the state from passing laws that protect people from discrimination based on their reproductive health decisions.  This threatens a key non-discrimination protection for people in St. Louis and also represents an unprecedented effort by a state to block local progress.

As St. Louis Alderwoman Megan Ellyia-Green stated when she introduced the bill, local bodies should be able step in to protect their residents from discrimination, particularly where state and federal lawmaking bodies are not doing what they should to protect individuals from this kind of discrimination.

Throughout this session, some Missouri lawmakers have stood up for women’s health and opposed this bill. Notably, Representative Peter Merideth introduced a bill (HB 17) in the Missouri House that would provide similar protections for employees and tenants as those in the St. Louis law. But it is yet to be seen whether that bill will become law.

Missouri Women Deserve Laws that Will Actually Protect Them

This bill – this whole “extraordinary session” – is a transparent effort on the part of Missouri politicians to block women’s access to abortion, and to stop progressive cities from providing residents with additional protections around abortion and other reproductive health care. If this bill goes into effect, it will place Missourians in danger of being discriminated against for their reproductive health decisions, and it will make it even harder for Missouri’s one remaining abortion clinic to provide services to patients.