Missouri Proposal Could Signal New Anti-Abortion Strategy

It seeks to ban out-of-state abortions with enforcement by private citizens
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 9, 2022 8:01 AM CST
Missouri Proposal Could Signal New Anti-Abortion Strategy
This Oct. 2, 2019, photo shows a Planned Parenthood facility in Fairview Heights, Ill., just 12 miles across the Mississippi River east of St. Louis, as Missouri women concerned about the uncertain future of a St. Louis clinic flock across the state line.   (Christian Gooden/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP, File)

It's not only in Texas that women are getting around a strict abortion law by traveling out of state or buying abortion pills online. The same thing is playing out in states including Missouri, which passed a law in 2019 making abortion illegal after eight weeks of pregnancy including in cases of rape and incest. Though that law can't be enforced during a legal challenge, Missouri has only one abortion clinic where 10 to 20 procedures are performed each month. And since 2019, more than 10,000 Missouri residents have received abortion care at a Planned Parenthood clinic over the border in Illinois, reports the Washington Post. Now, a Republican lawmaker is pushing to make that illegal, too.

State Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman has introduced a bill that would ban the manufacture, transport, possession or distribution of abortion pills in Missouri and allow private citizens to sue anyone who helps a resident obtain an out-of-state abortion, including doctors, those who advertise out-of-state clinics, and the staffers who schedule the appointments. As with the Texas law, "state government would have no enforcement authority," per the Kansas City Star. It "could signal a new strategy by the antiabortion movement to extend its influence beyond the conservative states poised to tighten restrictions" if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, per the Post. There are already concerns that remaining clinics would be overwhelmed.

"If your neighboring state doesn't have pro-life protections, it minimizes the ability to protect the unborn in your state," Coleman tells the Post. But abortion rights advocates say it's unconstitutional for states to regulate activities beyond their borders. "A state's power is over its own citizens and its own geographical boundaries," says Elizabeth Myers, an attorney assisting Texas abortion rights groups in challenging the state's six-week abortion ban. Still, she fears threats of legal action would be enough to prevent abortions before a court intervention. Coleman's proposal is an amendment to abortion-related House bills that have made it through committee but have yet to be debated on the floor, the Post reports. (More abortion stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.