Religious Leaders Continue Legal Fight Against Missouri’s Abortion Ban

St. Louis, MO – November 16, 2023 Today, the St. Louis City Court will hold a crucial hearing in the case of Rev. Traci Blackmon v. State of Missouri. In this case, a group of fourteen clergy members of different faiths argue that Missouri’s abortion ban violates the state’s commitment to the separation of church and state.

Last June, the faith leaders, represented by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), and Arnold & Porter, defeated the state’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The court granted the clergy permission to move forward with their challenges to the abortion ban.

Today’s hearing will address similar arguments on the state’s “Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings.” The court’s decision on this motion could significantly impact the future of reproductive rights in Missouri.

“Each of our faiths call upon us to defend the dignity and autonomy of all individuals,” said Rev. Traci Blackmon, named plaintiff and Associate General Minister of Justice & Local Church Ministries for The United Church of Christ. “Missouri’s abortion bans impose religious doctrine on all of us and in doing so deny equity and bodily autonomy. We aren’t truly free unless we can control our own bodies, lives, and futures. Our laws should protect our rights, not try to control and dehumanize us.”

“This case is about upholding the fundamental rights of individuals to make their own decisions about their bodies, without governmental interference,” said K.M. Bell, Senior Litigation Counsel at NWLC. “Lawmakers have no place interfering in someone else’s pregnancy decisions. We stand with our clients and the broader coalition of faith leaders in this fight for reproductive freedom.”

Kalli Joslin, Steven Gey Constitutional Litigation Fellow at Americans United for Separation of Church and State, added, “We are committed to defending the fundamental right to be treated equally under the law. When lawmakers enshrine their narrow set of religious beliefs about abortion in law, it subordinates the health and lives of women and all who can become pregnant, inhibiting their ability to participate equally in society. We will continue to fight on behalf of our plaintiffs and all Missourians’ right to reproductive health access.”

Learn more about the case here.

Watch the livestream of the hearing here.


Americans United is a religious freedom advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, AU educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom. Learn more at

The National Women’s Law Center fights for gender justice — in the courts, in public policy, and in our society — working across the issues that are central to the lives of women and girls. We use the law in all its forms to change culture and drive solutions to the gender inequity that shapes our society and to break down the barriers that harm all of us — especially those who face multiple forms of discrimination, including women of color, LGBTQ people, and low-income women and families. For more than 50 years, we have been on the leading edge of every major legal and policy victory for women. Find out more at

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