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Supreme Court decision could mean near total abortion ban in Missouri

Supporters of abortion rights supporters on Friday protest in the Missouri Capitol. The legislature sent a bill banning abortions after eight weeks to Gov. Mike Parson to sign. May 17, 2019
Carolina Hidalgo
St. Louis Public Radio
Supporters of abortion rights protest in the Missouri Capitol in 2019.

A draft U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning landmark rulings on abortion rights could end most legal abortions in Missouri.

At issue is a case out of Mississippi that the Supreme Court heard last December. Politico reported Monday on a draft opinion, which said it has the support of the majority of justices, that would overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. In effect, it would leave the legality of abortion up to individual states.

Legislation that Missouri lawmakers passed and Gov. Mike Parson signed in 2019 would ban abortions in the state with the exception of medical emergencies if Roe and Casey are overturned. There would be no exceptions for rape or incest. The law in question is currently ensnared in federal litigation.

“If this draft is accurate, Missouri will be an abortion free state!” tweeted former Missouri House Speaker Elijah Haahr, who championed the legislation that went to Parson’s desk on the last day of the 2019 session.

In a statement released late Monday evening, Yamelsie Rodríguez, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said while the leaked opinion is "just a draft, it previews what we’ve long been preparing for — the day Roe v. Wade is overturned and the legal right to abortion comes to an end in this country."

"We knew this opinion was coming and while it’s not official, it brings us one step closer to an impending public health crisis," Rodríguez said. "For now, patients seeking abortion care in Missouri and Illinois, can and should continue to show up for your appointments — abortion remains legal today. No matter what, with our partners, we will fight for what little is left of abortion access in Missouri and push forward to expand in Illinois where abortion access is protected beyond Roe.”

Reaction to Politico’s report was swift from both political parties.

U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, suggested that the leaking of the draft, which Politico noted wasn’t necessarily the final decision, was a way to intimidate justices. In another tweet, he called the draft by Justice Samuel Alito “a heck of an opinion. Voluminously researched, tightly argued, and morally powerful.”

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, a Democrat, said in a statement that the potential decision means that “first they come for our bodies — then they come for voting rights, civil rights, LGBTQ rights.”

“If there was ever a time to hit the alarm and break the glass, this is it. Congress must take action to protect abortion rights and keep these bans off of our bodies,” Jones said.

Impact on U.S. Senate contest

For decades, Missouri voters, especially in rural areas, have sent state legislators of both parties to Jefferson City who voted to curb abortion rights. But the leading Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate said a near total ban on abortion, even in the cases of rape and incest, could be too far for some voters.

Democrat Lucas Kunce said in a statement: “It is fundamentally necessary that the U.S. Congress codify Roe v. Wade immediately. If they won’t, we need to replace them.”

One of Kunce’s Democratic rivals, Trudy Busch Valentine, said in a statement that it’s “heartbreaking that the Supreme Court is now on the brink of repealing it.”

“We need to codify Roe at the federal level immediately,” Valentine wrote.

Spencer Toder tweeted: “I started to put up a video about how if you voted for me I would codify Roe. I will, but for now, let's focus on what matters. I'll personally match the next $500 donated to @MOAbortionFund.”

But actually codifying the right to an abortion in federal law likely has only a slim chance of passing the Senate, which is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. It would probably require eliminating the filibuster, which Kunce alluded to in a follow-up tweet.

“Get rid of the filibuster and protect Americans' right to an abortion. Not ready? Get the hell out of the way,” Kunce wrote.

All of the major Republican candidates oppose abortion rights.

Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Harrisonville, echoed Hawley in criticizing the decision to leak the draft, calling the move “outrageous and dangerous.” Politico did not say who turned over the document.

“I pray and remain hopeful [the U.S. Supreme Court] stays true to this potential decision, but this unprecedented, intentional leak is malicious and threatens the independence of our highest court,” Hartzler tweeted on Monday.

Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who's now running for U.S. Senate, also criticized the leak of the draft, stating in a statement that the person who sent the document to Politico is "trying to weaponize the court and turn the sacred institution into a political cudgel during the midterm elections."

"Life is precious and worthy of protection — especially the unborn who are the most vulnerable," said Greitens, who noted that he called a special session of the legislature to restrict abortion when he was governor.

U.S. Rep. Billy Long, R-Springfield, said in a statement that when Roe v. Wade was decided, “I didn’t understand abortion then, and I don’t understand it now.”

“I am optimistic that these reports are true, and that the Supreme Court will do the right thing, finally overturning this travesty of a decision,” Long said.

Attorney General Eric Schmitt, also a candidate in the Republican Senate primary, tweeted: “I’ve argued it in court briefings…Overturn Roe v Wade.”

Politico’s article said that the decision in the Mississippi abortion case may not be issued for two months. Missouri’s U.S. Senate primary is slated for Aug. 2.

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

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