An emboldened Missouri takes action to restrict access to abortion

By Samuel Ast

Late last week, Missouri joined a growing list of states that have enacted laws that would further
limit a woman’s access to abortion in the state, as well as criminalize any healthcare providers
that carry out such operations.
The bill, which prohibits abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy, was signed into law by
Governor Mike Parson on May 24.
“I believe in the pro-life side of the issue,” Parson said on May 24 at a press briefing. “Does it
meet what I believe to be constitutional in our state? I believe this piece of legislation does.”
The bill, “Missouri Stands With the Unborn,” overwhelmingly passed both chambers of the state
legislature in quick succession earlier this month, and allows for no exceptions even in cases of
rape or incest. Additionally, the bill allows “pregnancy resource centers” to claim state tax
credits after 2021. These centers have been the subject of controversy due to the nature of their
funding (a large portion of them are state-funded or given tax credits by the state), as well as
their confusing purpose (some argue that the information these centers disseminate
to women is faulty, at best, and deliberately misleading, at worst.)
There is little doubt that Republicans across the country feel increasingly emboldened by a
conservative Supreme Court that is explicitly hostile to, and overtly itching to overturn the
landmark court case, Roe v Wade. The ruling enshrined a woman’s right to privacy when it
comes to reproductive health decisions. Currently, during the first three months of pregnancy,
women are constitutionally given the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy if they so choose.
A decision to do so, if one so chooses, is to be made free from government intervention or
regulation.
Since 2016, anti-abortion activists have been doing everything they can to pressure state
legislatures across the country into passing laws that are unconstitutional under existing legal
precedent. Doing so would ultimately provoke a second look at the constitutionality of abortion
rights.
Sponsors of the Missouri bill dispute this symbolic framing, arguing, instead, that the law is
actually purposeful and intended to stick. The legislation includes multiple fail-safes that are
meant to withstand several rounds of legal challenges, thus ensuring the possibility that at least
some of the restrictions might be implemented.

So far, at least six states–including Missouri–have passed laws that would place strict limits on
access to abortion services if successfully implemented and upheld legally. Many more have
passed “trigger laws” that would outlaw abortion in the event Roe is overturned.
As of now, Missouri has only one abortion provider located in St Louis, though CBS is reporting
that this particular clinic expects to close their doors within 72 hours due to a refusal by the state
health department to renew the facilities’ license. It is estimated that at least half of all Missouri
women seeking abortion services travel out-of-state, either to Illinois or to Kansas, to have the
operation performed.
In Kansas, despite a recent major state supreme court ruling in April protecting abortion rights,
women are still subjected to regulations such as mandatory waiting periods before operations or
compulsory counseling before they are allowed to terminate a pregnancy–all of which is
constitutional under Roe in its current iteration. If Planned Parenthood’s St Louis location
shutters, over one million women of reproductive age could have their fates thrown in jeopardy,
and their options severely limited.
Recent polling shows that most Americans, 67% according to one CBS poll, support upholding
Roe, with even the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate, as well as the conservative minority
in the House, voicing public opposition to the near-total ban on abortions in Alabama.
For those looking toward the future implications laws like those in Missouri and Alabama will
have on women and American politics remains to be seen. What is known, is that laws like these,
and their subsequent ACLU fueled court challenges, will undoubtedly be between those who
want to reform Roe, and those who want to protect as much access to safe, legal abortions as
possible; not with those who want to ban it outright and completely.

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