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Abortion regulations, St. Louis anti-discrimination law focus of 2nd special legislative session

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Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio
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As promised, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is calling lawmakers back to Jefferson City — for the second time — to target organizations and local governments that support abortion rights.

The session begins next Monday. “I'm pro-life, and I believe that we need to defend life and promote a culture of life here in the state of Missouri,” the governor said in his announcement on Facebook.

He's also holding three rallies on Friday, including one in St. Charles.  Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a strong abortion opponent, is joining Greitens at rallies in Springfield and Joplin.

Legislators wrapped up their first special session on May 26, sending Greitens a bill designed to reopen a shutdown aluminum smelting plant and build a new steel plant nearby. It cost taxpayers more than $66,000, according to The Associated Press, which included $47,000 for the House and about $19,000 for the Senate.

For the new special session, Greitens has two aims.  First, he wants legislators to overturn St. Louis’ revision to its anti-discrimination ordinance, which keeps employers and landlords from discriminating against women who have had abortions or plan to undergo one.   

Two bills were filed during the regular session, which ended May 12, targeting the ordinance. One would have shielded alternative-to-abortion agencies, a measure that passed the House but died in the Senate. The other would have overturned the ordinance by barring any Missouri municipality from declaring itself as a sanctuary city for women seeking abortions; it didn’t even get a hearing.  

Second, Greitens’ special session call also includes portions of an abortion-restriction measure that passed the House but fell short in the Senate. 

It was sponsored in the House by Rep. Diane Franklin, R-Camdenton. A near-identical bill was sponsored in the Senate by Republican Bob Onder of St. Charles.

Among the bill’s provisions, highlighted in Greitens’ special-session announcement, are unannounced annual “on-site inspections and investigations’’ of any abortion clinic and an expansion of the information the clinics are to send to the state Health Department about each abortion — including an estimation of how old the “fetal organs and tissue are.”

Onder is a longstanding abortion opponent who’s been asking for special session on these issues. He said he’s concerned about the expected addition of several new abortion clinics in Missouri, which is the result of a federal judge’s ruling in April that tossed out some of the state’s abortion restrictions. The decision was in response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that tossed out similar laws in Texas.

Onder lauded Greitens’ decision to call lawmakers back to Jefferson City. "The overreach by an activist federal judge and the Board of Aldermen in the City of St. Louis raises this issue to the need of immediate action by the General Assembly,” Onder said.

But state Sen. Jill Schupp, a Democrat from Creve Coeur, disagreed: "Calling for an expensive emergency legislative session to force bills that will endanger safety and threaten access to reproductive health care is just another example of big government intrusion into the private reproductive health decisions of Missourians."

Follow Marshall and Jo on Twitter: @MarshallGReport, @jmannies

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.
Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.

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