Senate Bill 724 and House Bill 1867 are attempts by lawmakers to ban abortion in Missouri. They co-opt very real concerns about discrimination on the basis of race, sex, and ability to restrict access to safe and legal abortion. Neither Senate Bill 724 nor HB 1867 do anything to support people who face discrimination, including women of color and people with disabilities and their families.
This is another unconstitutional effort by politicians to ban abortion in our state. Senate Bill 724 and House Bill 1867 would ban abortions based on sex, race, or prenatal testing that show a Down syndrome diagnosis, and create new criminal penalties for physicians who provide abortion. Opponents of abortion continue to seek different ways to intervene in personal and private decisions by playing politics with women’s health.
Abortion is a deeply personal and often complex decision that must be left to women, in consultation with their families, faith, and health care providers. These bills insert the state into the exam room in an effort to restrict access to abortion. They force physicians to act as government agents, shaming women into justifying their decision to have a safe and legal medical procedure.
These abortion bans will not make Missouri a better place for people who face sex and race discrimination. Efforts to ban abortion based on race or sex are fueled by racist stereotypes. Supporters of sex-selective abortion bans claim they are necessary because of Asians who migrate to the U.S. and bring “backward” values with them. This stereotype about the values of the Asian- American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community is not only ugly—it’s dangerous. These bans could lead to AAPI patients being singled out for special questioning and even being denied care.
These abortion bans won’t make Missouri a better place for people with Down syndrome. Instead, this is about politics and taking away women’s ability to make personal, private, and often complicated decisions. These bills do nothing to address the serious underlying concerns about discrimination against people with disabilities. This policy is not supported by the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS). Organizations like NDSS focus on educating women and their families about Down syndrome when they undergo prenatal genetic testing. This bill does not do that.
Parents of children with Down syndrome have spoken out in various states against efforts to ban abortions based Down syndrome. These parents have pointed out that the bills are not about helping families and children affected by disabilities, but are instead using those children as a wedge issue in their efforts to ban abortion altogether.
These measures would threaten women’s lives and health by restricting abortion access for women who need them. These bills won’t reduce the need for abortion in our communities. Rather, they will eliminate women’s access to safe, qualified providers, forcing women to travel out of state or take measures into their own hands.
We encourage lawmakers to focus on measures that will support all people who face discrimination, especially people of color and people with disabilities and their families. Our Legislature should use the money it would have to spend defending this unconstitutional law in court to improve maternal and child health outcomes and to better fund programs like First Steps that support children with disabilities and their families. Expanding Medicaid would ensure increased access to health care for all low-income Missourians, including people of color and people with disabilities.