© 2021 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Health, Science, Environment

Missouri Republicans Plan To Introduce Abortion Restrictions Modeled On Texas Law

A volunteer with Coalition for Life St. Louis protests outside Planned Parenthood on Forest Park Avenue.
File Photo / Carolina Hidalgo
/
St. Louis Public Radio
A volunteer with Coalition for Life St. Louis stands in front of the Planned Parenthood clinic in the Central West End. Missouri Republican lawmakers say they want to pass more stringent laws that could limit abortions after six weeks.

Missouri Republicans plan to introduce legislation that could ban abortions after six weeks, modeled on a Texas law that took effect this week.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up a case challenging the Texas law, which prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. That typically occurs at about six weeks.

The law also allows state residents to sue abortion providers or anyone who helps a person have the procedure. A Texas judge on Friday temporarily barred residents from suing the Planned Parenthood health centers while the law is debated in court.

Missouri Republican Gov. Mike Parson in 2019 signed a law passed by the Republican-controlled legislature that restricts most abortions after eight weeks. It’s one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation.

That law is being challenged in court.

Now, Republican lawmakers want to impose tougher restrictions.

“I am absolutely going to file a bill as soon as I can,” said state Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold. “We are committed as a group to work together to do absolutely any and all procedural or legal avenues to end abortion.”

Coleman is working with other Republican legislators who drafted the 2019 Missouri bill. While Missouri lawmakers can’t lift the Texas law word-for-word, they’re planning to look at the state’s law and use it as a blueprint.

“As a longtime pro-life activist, I’m going to do everything in my power, and I’m going to stand with the other architects of the pro-life bill to make sure that we’re going to use absolutely every legal avenue possible to end abortion in Missouri,” she said.

Abortion rights activists in Missouri are gearing up to fight what they now see as an inevitable battle.

“History continues to show us that this will not remain a Texas problem for very long,” NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri Executive Director Mallory Schwarz said. “Given the precedent set earlier this week by the highest court in the land by allowing this law to stand, we anticipate we’re going to see a copycat bill come to Missouri as soon as filing opens.”

Schwarz and other leaders of activist groups in Missouri are rallying supporters to send funds to organizations that help pay for abortions in Missouri and Texas and to pressure state representatives to oppose a new measure. She’s also encouraging supporters to talk about their own abortions to reduce stigma, what she referred to as a “ground-level” tactic.

However, with Republican supermajorities in both houses of the Missouri legislature, Schwarz said the groups’ fight for abortion rights would likely take years.

“We need people to know this is coming, we need people prepared to fight disinformation, to protest and call and alert their elected officials and be ready to fight back,” she said.

It has become harder for such organizations to rely on courts to strike down restrictive abortion laws, said Dr. Colleen McNicholas, chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri.

While the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the United States still stands, it’s been degraded by local laws that make it nearly impossible for some people to get the procedure, McNicholas said.

“Pro-choice organizations and those of us who provide abortion care have been relying on the courts and the constitutional precedent set by Roe,” she said. “But the constitutional precedent of Roe securing access, if not in reality, at least on paper, has really gone by the wayside now.”

 Follow Sarah on Twitter: @petit_smudge

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.