STL Post-Dispatch: Democratic lawmakers look to repeal abortion restrictions after Supreme Court ruling

By Celeste Bott St. Louis Post-Dispatch

JEFFERSON CITY • Three Democratic lawmakers vowed Wednesday to file bills that would get rid of two longstanding abortion restrictions after the Supreme Court struck down similar rules in Texas.

At issue are laws that hold abortion clinics to the same safety standards as outpatient surgical centers and require doctors who perform abortions to have privileges at a nearby hospital. Missouri was the first state in the nation to adopt both, in 1986 and 2005, respectively.

Supporters say the restrictions protect women’s health and well-being, but opponents contend they only block women’s rights to have an abortion, making requirements so stringent few providers can meet them.

In Missouri, only the Planned Parenthood in St. Louis provides abortions, down from 29 clinics statewide in 1982.

The Supreme Court ruled that the laws in Texas were medically unnecessary and unconstitutional in a landmark decision last month, but it doesn’t invalidate the same rules in Missouri. That will require legislation or court action.

A spokesperson for Attorney General Chris Koster previously told the Post-Dispatch that he is reviewing the case.

St. Louis lawmakers Sen. Jamilah Nasheed and Rep. Stacey Newman joined Sen. Jill Schupp of Creve Coeur to speak to the media Wednesday about their hopes to eliminate the laws, saying they believe the Supreme Court decision will give them some momentum.

Politically, it’s a tough ask. There are pro-life GOP supermajorities in both the Missouri House and Senate, and as Nasheed pointed out, there were nearly a dozen new abortion restrictions proposed in the most recent legislative session alone.

Still, she argued, it’s a fight worth fighting because restrictions don’t prevent abortions – they only prevent safe abortions.

“If a woman chooses to get an abortion, and they’re going to get it done legally or they’re going to get it done harmfully,” Nasheed said.

All three acknowledged that they weren’t likely to see repeal during their own tenures in Jefferson City, but saw the ruling as leverage for future change.

“This is not all going to be decided by legislation,” Newman said, adding that it’s likely that change to Missouri’s laws will have to take place through the court process.

But Supreme Court’s ruling does give pro-choice lawmakers in Missouri a precedent they hadn’t had before, Schupp said.

“(We have) women on our side, the medical community on our side, now the highest law of the land on our side,” she said.

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