Missouri Republicans Propose Constitutional Amendment To Strengthen Ban On Abortion

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Anti-abortion senators proposed several ways on Wednesday to limit state funding for reproductive health care and enshrine anti-abortion language in the state constitution.

SJR 8 proposes a constitutional amendment requiring a statewide vote that would prevent the Missouri government from funding abortion providers or their affiliates. SB 160 proposes a similar concept in statute, not as a constitutional amendment. SJR 19 would amend the state constitution after a statewide vote to prevent any part of it from being misconstrued to protect abortion.

All three were presented in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee Wednesday.

Testifying in support of the proposals were representatives from Missouri for Life, the Missouri Catholic Conference, and other anti-abortion organizations. They argued that abortion is now illegal in Missouri, so funding it should be as well. Several witnesses voiced concerns about Medicaid funding going to Planned Parenthood.

Samuel Lee, the director of Campaign Life Missouri, said Planned Parenthood is a “provider and promoter” of abortions. He also raised concerns about Medicaid-funded abortions, which are not possible under the federal Hyde Amendment, except in cases of life endangerment, rape, or incest. In Missouri, abortion is only available in cases of life endangerment.

Vanessa Wellberry, vice president of policy and advocacy at Planned Parenthood, said she is concerned about the language which would deny funding and Medicaid coverage to abortion provider affiliates, as Planned Parenthood provides abortion care in other states.

Other witnesses in opposition from the Missouri Family Health Council and Pro-Choice Missouri shared their concerns about access to birth control, pap smears and mammograms, STI testing, and gender-affirming care if Planned Parenthood lost funding.

Sen. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove, questioned both witnesses who sponsored SJR 19. He asked why they were concerned about losing funding for facilities that do not provide abortions. Both witnesses voiced concerns about the term “affiliate or associate.” Planned Parenthood in Missouri is affiliated with Planned Parenthood clinics in other states that provide abortions. Moon suggested that Planned Parenthood could stop providing abortions in other states to continue to be able to operate in Missouri.

Several more witnesses in opposition voiced their concerns about Missouri’s high maternal mortality rate. Maggie Olivia, from Pro-Choice Missouri, gave testimony praising Planned Parenthood’s trauma-informed approach to women’s health. Olivia said she could not attend any OB-GYN appointment without trauma-informed care due to a previous sexual assault. Other witnesses also mentioned their concerns about the strain any lack of funding for Planned Parenthood would put on other healthcare providers.

Moon argued that abortion has caused Missouri to lose its potential population. When questioned by Sen. Jill Carter, R-Granby, he denied that religious talking points drove this resolution.

Moon said life begins at conception, saying, “It’s a scientific fact.” He based this statement on a study from the American College of Pediatricians, a conservative advocacy group.

Sam Hawickhorst, from Pro-Choice Missouri, testified that she learned she was pregnant as a University of Missouri student in 2015 at 22 years old. Her ex-partner wanted nothing to do with the pregnancy, and her family was not entirely supportive. Hawickhorst said she decided to have an abortion and went through the difficult process of going to St. Louis twice, with a 72-hour gap between visits.

She could terminate her pregnancy on her second visit with an abortion pill.

Hawickhorst said abortion is an essential and necessary part of health care and that she did not regret her abortion. Several other witnesses gave similar testimony. A representative from the National Council of Jewish Women in St. Louis testified that SJR 19 opposed the Jewish faith and would be enshrining the beliefs of one religion into law.

House Democrats released a statement after the hearing noting they have proposed nine bills to protect access to birth control, abortion, and medically accurate information regarding reproductive health. None of these bills have been sent to a committee since their proposal.