Published June 24th, 2022 at 10:22 AM3 minute read
The U.S. Supreme Court today issued a monumental decision ending constitutional protections for abortion — a change that will have immediate consequences in Missouri.
The case, “Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization,” concerned a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
In upholding Mississippi’s law, a conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court also reversed the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which declared that a woman has a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy before the point of viability — in the first two trimesters when a fetus is unable to survive outside the womb.
Now, with a 6-3 decision, the court leaves the fate of reproductive rights entirely up to individual states.
“The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives,” the decision reads.
Here are the answers to some of the most pressing questions about the new status of abortion laws in Missouri:
In 2019, the Missouri General Assembly passed House Bill 126, which contains a so-called “trigger ban” prohibiting nearly all abortions in the state.
That ban goes into effect as soon as the governor or attorney general certifies that Roe has been overturned, or the legislature enacts a resolution to the same effect.
Attorney General Eric Schmitt has done exactly that, just moments after the Supreme Court overturned Roe.
🚨 BREAKING 🚨 Following the SCOTUS ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, Missouri has just become the first in the country to effectively end abortion with our AG opinion signed moments ago. This is a monumental day for the sanctity of life. pic.twitter.com/Jphy72R4rq— Attorney General Eric Schmitt (@AGEricSchmitt) June 24, 2022
The trigger law makes it a class B felony to induce an abortion. Class B felonies carry prison sentences of five to 15 years.
Abortion providers could also have their medical licenses suspended or revoked.
The law makes no exception for rape or incest. Its only exceptions are for medical emergencies that threaten the life of the pregnant person or “create a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.”
No. The law only applies to abortion providers.
As noted, the trigger law stipulates that a woman getting an abortion cannot be charged. But it’s not entirely clear if that remains the case for self-induced medication abortions.
“If a woman, for example, induced an abortion herself by taking an abortion-inducing drug, it’s not clear under the statute that she couldn’t be prosecuted,” St. Louis University law professor Marcia McCormick told St. Louis Public Radio in May.
Yes, but only one.
Fourteen years ago, Missouri had five abortion clinics. Today, owing to a raft of restriction passed by the Missouri legislature, there’s only one: Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood in St. Louis.
In the St. Louis area, abortions are also available at Planned Parenthood’s health center just across the river in Fairview Heights, Illinois.
On the Kansas City side of the state, Planned Parenthood’s health center and the Center for Women’s Health in Overland Park, Kansas, just over the state line, also offer abortion services.
For residents in Springfield or the middle of Missouri, people have to travel at least 166 miles to the nearest abortion facility – i.e., the one in St. Louis. (It’s 215 miles to the facility in Overland Park.)
In fact, that actually understates the amount of travel that someone seeking an abortion will likely have to undertake. That’s because Missouri law also requires a 72-hour waiting period before an abortion can be provided.
As a result, any low-income people who can’t afford to pay for accommodations in St. Louis will have to make the trip twice.
The law does not address measures to prevent pregnancy, as opposed to measures to end it. Planned Parenthood says it believes Missouri’s law will not affect access to birth control.
“Birth control does not meet the criteria for the definition under MO law,” the organization tweeted in May. “Since birth control prevents pregnancy (and does not end an existing pregnancy, overturning #Roe will not block access to birth control.”
🧵“Today is the worst case scenario for 36 million people of reproductive age who live in 26 states including Missouri where abortion is now poised to be banned." #BansOffOurBodies #AbortionIsEssential #WeWontBackDown pic.twitter.com/d83REi0lbS— Planned Parenthood (@PPSLR) June 24, 2022
Likewise, the law does not ban in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Quite possibly. Republicans in the legislature have proposed various constitutional amendments that would explicitly declare that the Missouri Constitution does not include the right to an abortion.
(In 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the right to an abortion is rooted in the Kansas Constitution. In response, the Kansas Legislature voted to send a constitutional amendment to voters this August that would overturn that decision.)
Other proposed measures include a novel proposal allowing private citizens to sue anyone aiding a Missourian to obtain an abortion, including those who transport them and out-of-state physicians.
Republican state Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, who introduced the measure in Missouri’s recently-ended 2022 session, told Politico that it specifically targets the Planned Parenthood clinic in Fairview Heights, Illinois. However, it would also impact Missouri residents who sought abortion services in Overland Park, Kansas.
Like Texas’ six-week abortion ban, which the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed to stay in effect for the last nine months, this bill seeks to circumvent legal challenges by placing enforcement in the hands of private citizens rather than state officials.
Another bill, sponsored by Republican state Rep. Brian Seitz, targets out-of-state pharmacists who help Missourians obtain a medication abortion. Yet another proposal would make it illegal to transport abortion medications through the mail.