Abortion is illegal in Missouri. Suppliers look to next frontier to secure access • Missouri Independent
Angela Huntington’s phone kept ringing.
When Texas’ fetal heart rate ban on abortions went into effect last September, the number of patients calling Planned Parenthood Great Plains jumped overnight. In August, approximately 150 patients received financial aid and assistance. In September, that number rose to around 850.
“I remember my inbox growing, like every minute,” Huntington, one of the organization’s first patient navigators based at their Columbia clinic, said in an interview earlier this month. “It was like a thread with the number of emails I was getting.”
While abortions haven’t been offered at the Columbia clinic since 2018, Huntington is part of a growing team of patient navigators who aim to be guides for patients in a post-Roe world.
Earlier this month, Huntington even helped a patient from Oklahoma who couldn’t afford an out-of-state trip to Kansas City. in a private plane piloted by a volunteer to reach an appointment.
New regional centers that aim to continue making abortions easier to access — even if they don’t happen in Missouri — are brewing in both Illinois and Kansas. The Regional Logistics Center has been operating in Fairview Heights since Januarywhile the Kansas Center for Abortion and Reproductive Equity plans to start as soon as possible.
Abortions are now illegal in Missouri after Friday’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, who had guaranteed a constitutional right to process. Only abortions performed in medical emergencies are permitted under the state’s trigger ban. Missouri’s Last Abortion Clinic ceased all abortion services on Friday.
For abortion providers, who for decades have faced growing restrictions from the GOP supermajority that controls the Missouri state house, Friday’s decision echoes familiar ground.
“We’ve been through this before,” Emily Wales, CEO and President of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said in an interview earlier this month, later adding, “It feels different because it’s not death by a thousand cuts anymore. . And I think that’s what he went through in Missouri.
For abortion advocates, a new frontier awaits.
“The battle is not over, but the battlefield has changed,” said Sam Lee, a longtime Campaign Life Missouri lobbyist.
Lee said he expects there will be attempts to legalize abortion in Missouri, whether through a lawsuit to find an abortion right in the constitution of the Missouri or a referendum to put the question to voters.
In anticipation of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Missouri lawmakers had proposed legislation during the last session ensure that no abortion rights exist in the state constitution. In Kansas, a proposed constitutional amendment on the August ballot will decide if there is a constitutional right to abortionpotentially ushering in a wave of new restrictions if voters decide that is not the case.
It remains to be seen which direction Missouri lawmakers will choose to go in a post-Roe world.
Last year, Missouri lawmakers unsuccessfully tried to ban payment for some forms of contraceptives through the state’s Medicaid program and reported another push may be under discussion. A proposal that has garnered national attention to allow private citizens to sue anyone who helps a Missourian access an abortion — regardless of where the procedure takes place — failed to gain ground in the legislature.
“Anything that could harm or kill the child should not exist,” said Mary Maschmeier, founder of Defenders of the Unborn. “And birth control, that’s it.”
Meanwhile, earlier this month, the National Right to Life Committee proposed a model law on abortion that states adopt once Roe falls. The bill goes beyond simply criminalizing providers who perform an abortion by prohibiting anyone from helping someone obtain one illegally. Under model legislation, this includes sharing information online or over the phone about how to get one.
But for now, there are more immediate battles to fight.
During a panel discussion Friday at the Planned Parenthood Clinic in St. Louis, Mallory Schwarz, executive director of Pro-Choice Missouri, revealed that a bill would be presented by the alderman of Saint-Louis to create a funding stream to support access to abortions by delivering $1 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to groups working to provide transportation, lodging, child care and more to patients needing the procedure.
“This legislation makes St. Louis the fifth location to provide municipal funding for abortion access,” Schwarz said, “and the first municipality to provide funding for all pregnancy support, including l access to doulas, breastfeeding support, and mental health care during pregnancy and postpartum.
Lee said he believes the bill would violate state laws that ban public funds, public employees and public facilities to be used to facilitate abortions. A provision of state law defines “public funds” as any money received or controlled by the state or political subdivision, which may come from “federal, state, or local taxes, gifts or grants from any source, public or private, federal grants or payments, or intergovernmental transfers” .
“There’s just no doubt in my mind,” Lee said, “and if the Board of Aldermen goes through with it, we’ll seek execution.”
Federal Call to Action
Congresswoman Cori Bush, Democrat of St. Louis, on Friday urged the Biden administration to declare a national public health emergency and increase funding for Title X health centers.
“This is an emergency,” Bush said, “and it requires urgent action.”
With U.S. Supreme Court ruling returning authority over abortion to states, Missouri reproductive rights advocates renew calls for President Joe Biden’s administration to step up its enforcement of federal laws to ensure that Missouri’s reproductive health provider safety net remains intact.
During the last legislative session, Missouri lawmakers cut funding to abortion providers and their affiliates through the state budget. It awaits Governor Mike Parson’s signature. Planned Parenthood has already sued for restricted Medicaid payments following a supplementary budget enacted earlier this year.
In a May 12 letter, more than 25 advocacy organizations — ranging from health care providers like Planned Parenthood to advocacy groups like Empower Missouri — urged the Centers for Medicaid and Medicaid Services to enforce federal law that states that Medicaid patients can choose any qualified provider to receive services. of.
Advocates echoed those calls during Friday’s roundtable with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.
Becerra, a Biden appointee and former California attorney general, pledged to ensure that states adhere to federal laws governing access to care.
“We want to be clear: We respect a state’s rights when it comes to its health and safety laws. These are constitutionally left primarily to a state,” Becerra said, later adding, “We will ensure that if there is federal law in place that protects the rights of individuals in this country to access care, that these rights are applied.
But HHS has yet to announce any action in the Missouri case. A spokesperson for the federal agency previously said in April that it was reviewing the policy.
Becerra said the application may involve legal action by the US Department of Justice or ensuring the state provides the services it needs to receive Medicaid funds.
At the end of the day on Friday, the shock at the decision had turned into anger for defenders of reproductive rights. Hundreds of people gathered at the Planned Parenthood Clinic in St. Louis — which until Friday was the only place to get an abortion in the state — to sing, march and share calls to action.
Amid the crowds propelled into the streets by Friday’s decision, a University of Washington student named Rida said her thoughts turned inward.
“It absolutely changes the way I approach relationships. My body doesn’t feel like my own. It feels like it belongs to Mike Parson somehow,” a- she declared.
“It’s terrifying to feel like if I find myself in a situation that’s completely out of my control, you know, God forbid if anything happens to me if I’m mugged, that he doesn’t there’s literally nothing I can do to help myself.”