Nearly all abortion is now banned in Missouri following the U.S. Supreme Court decision Friday ending the federal right to the procedure that marks the culmination of a decades-long campaign by Missouri abortion opponents to restrict and one day eliminate the lawful ability to end a pregnancy.
The U.S. Supreme Court opinion overturns the federal right to abortion established by the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Missouri has a “trigger law” prohibiting abortions except those necessary because of medical emergencies in the event Roe is overturned.
The sole clinic in the state offering surgical abortions — in St. Louis — is almost certain to immediately stop performing the procedure.
The decision is a historic moment not only for the country but for Missouri, ending nearly half a century of legal abortion in a state with deep anti-abortion roots. Missouri law barred abortion as early as 1825 – a prohibition that only ended with Roe 49 years ago.
The opinion ushers in a new, chaotic era in the fight over reproductive rights in Missouri, as lawmakers clash over how far to go in eliminating the procedure and weigh whether they can punish those who help Missouri residents get abortions out of state. Prosecutors, including Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, will face new choices about whether to charge individuals with abortion-related crimes.
The decision may not be the final word on abortion in Missouri. In the future, a ballot initiative could force a statewide vote on legalizing the procedure. A lawsuit could also be brought that argues the Missouri Constitution guarantees the right to an abortion.
“The battle is not over. It’s just that the battleground has shifted,” said Samuel Lee, a lobbyist for Campaign Life Missouri. “I expect lots more work for the pro-life movement over the coming years to protect the unborn and help women who are risk for abortions.”
Even before Friday’s decision, access to abortion was already very limited in Missouri. By 2020, fewer than 200 surgical abortions were performed, a drop of several thousand over the past two decades.
In 2020, Yamelsie Rodríguez, president and CEO of Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, said that “the reality is, abortion has essentially become a right in name only in Missouri.”
Missouri residents often traveled to Kansas, where a clinic in Overland Park offers the procedure, or to a clinic in Fairview Heights, Illinois, near St. Louis. In 2021, for instance, 3,458 Missouri residents received abortions in Kansas — 44% of all abortions performed in Kansas that year.