Today, Planned Parenthood, along with partners at the ACLU and law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP took the state of Missouri to court to stop an unprecedented number of abortion bans from taking effect in the state. If the bans are allowed to go into effect, abortion would be outlawed at nearly every stage of pregnancy.
Missouri is one of 12 states to ban abortion just in the first half of this year. State politicians, emboldened by the Trump-Pence administration, have passed a total of 26 abortion bans nationwide in 2019 alone.
In May, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed House Bill 126, one of the nation’s most restrictive abortion laws, despite massive public outcry. The law also imposes a long list of medically unnecessary restrictions designed to shame people who choose to end their pregnancy. This isn’t a coincidence — with Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, anti-abortion politicians are racing to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, Acting President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
“Planned Parenthood will not cower to politicians who are trying to dismantle our access to safe, legal abortion — not in Missouri, and not anywhere else. These dangerous and illegal bans put people’s health and lives at risk. We are living in a terrifying world where politicians are doing all they can to overturn Roe v. Wade — no matter how many people’s lives they put at risk. This is not what people want: 77 percent of Americans support Roe v. Wade and access to abortion. Until politicians listen to the overwhelming majority of Americans who want abortion to remain safe, legal, and accessible, we will fight to ensure that every person can still access reproductive health care: no matter what.”
Statement from Dr. Colleen McNicholas, Chief Medical Officer, Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region:
“Governor Parson and anti-abortion politicians are on a mission to end access to safe, legal abortion in Missouri. This law passed in May, just as Gov. Parson launched a failed attempt to end abortion in Missouri through the state’s health center licensing process. We are in the fight of our lives to protect abortion for 1.1 million Missouri women of reproductive age in our state. The attacks are relentless, but our commitment to our patients’ rights and freedoms is unwavering.
“We want every person to know that these abortion bans in our state are not in effect yet. Planned Parenthood’s doors are open. Abortion remains safe and legal. We will not back down from this fight. Gov. Parson, we’ll see you in court.”
Statement from Tony Rothert, Acting Executive Director and Legal Director, ACLU of Missouri:
“For years, anti-abortion politicians in the Missouri General Assembly have been pushing abortion care further and further out of reach. Until now, they’ve used medically unnecessary and politically-motivated restrictions as a cudgel. HB126, Missouri’s extreme and unconstitutional abortion ban, shows us just how far they’ll go. This dangerous bill criminalizes abortion at nearly every stage of pregnancy.
“The ACLU will not stand by while politicians emboldened by President Trump’s anti-abortion agenda exploit our health and our lives for political gain. We demand that the courts block these unconstitutional restrictions that criminalize abortion and shame people seeking care.”
Statement from Andrew Beck, Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project:
“Unless they are blocked by the court, these extreme laws would outright ban the vast majority of abortions in Missouri. The impact would be devastating for Missourians seeking abortion care, and would be felt most acutely by low-income patients and people of color. Politicians have no business dictating personal medical decisions, and we will not stand for it: the ACLU, along with our partners, is in this fight until these laws are blocked once and for all, and everyone who needs an abortion in Missouri can get one.”
Because of political attacks and restrictions throughout Missouri, Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region is the last remaining health center in the state that still provides abortion. Gov. Parson signed this sweeping abortion ban into law just before he worked with the state’s health department to refuse Planned Parenthood its abortion license. Parson admitted this harmful law would make Missouri the “most pro-life state in America.”
It is not new for politicians in Missouri or elsewhere to use a combination of state laws and regulatory harassment to target abortion providers — in fact, Missouri already used similar targeting to block the only other health center in the state that provided abortions from continuing to do so in 2018. Missouri forced doctors to do things like perform invasive and medically unnecessary pelvic exams and has dozens of medically unnecessary restrictions that make abortion nearly impossible to access. These restrictions include a 72-hour mandatory delay for patients accessing abortion, which forces patients to make two trips to the health center, and demanding abortion providers hold local hospital admitting privileges. This, despite the fact that support for access to abortion in America is at an all-time high—and growing. Seventy-seven percent of Americans say they do not want to see Roe overturned.
While the state is cutting off access to abortion, maternal and reproductive health in the state is in crisis. Maternal mortality rates in Missouri are more than 50 percent higher than the national average, and a syphilis outbreak is sweeping the state.
Already, 1 in 3 women of reproductive age lives in a state where abortion could be outlawed if Roe is overturned. That’s over 25 million people. While abortion bans impact everyone who can become pregnant, they hit people of color and those who are struggling to make ends meet the hardest — the people who already face barriers to accessing good health care. While some wealthy women may be able to find a way around abortion bans, far too many people — especially those who already face racism, homophobia, and transphobia — will be left with no options at all.