Liberal Mo. lawmakers to seek repeal of abortion restrictions

July 15, 2016 — Three liberal Missouri lawmakers have announced plans to repeal two antiabortion-rights laws in the state following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn similar restrictions in Texas, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports (Bott, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 7/13).

Background on Texas case

The Texas case, Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, centered on two provisions of the state's omnibus antiabortion-rights law (HB 2). One required abortion clinics in the state to meet the same building standards as ambulatory surgical centers (ASC), and the other required abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.

In a 5-3 decision, the court held that both contested provisions violated the U.S. Constitution by imposing an undue burden on a woman seeking abortion care. Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the majority, stated, "We conclude that neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access [to abortion care] that each imposes. Each places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking [abortion care], each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access, and each violates the federal Constitution" (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/1).

Missouri restrictions

According to the Dispatch, Missouri has laws in place similar to Texas' admitting privileges and ASC building requirements.

Missouri was the first state to implement each of the provisions, enacting the ASC building requirement in 1986 and the admitting privileges requirement in 2005. Since 1982, the number of abortion clinics in the state has fallen from 29 to just one -- the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis.

Liberal lawmakers pledge repeal effort

On Wednesday, state Sens. Jamilah Nasheed (D) and Jill Schupp (D), as well as state Rep. Stacey Newman (D), pledged to file legislation to repeal the state's admitting privileges and ASC building requirements.

While Missouri has an antiabortion-rights supermajority, the lawmakers said the Supreme Court's decision could provide them with some momentum.

Nasheed said despite expected opposition in the state Legislature, the lawmakers plan to continue fighting the restrictions because the laws can force women into unsafe conditions. "If a woman chooses to get an abortion, ... they're going to get it done legally or they're going to get it done harmfully," she said.

Schupp added, "(We have) women on our side, the medical community on our side, now the highest law of the land on our side."

However, the lawmakers noted that it could take time to strike down the laws. Noting that changing the Missouri restrictions likely will involve a court challenge, Newman said, "This is not all going to be decided by legislation" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 7/13).