Missouri’s state Legislature just passed a near-total abortion ban, sending it to the governor’s desk Friday morning just hours after Alabama’s governor signed the nation’s most restrictive abortion bill into law.
The governor of Missouri, Mike Parson, has vowed to make his state one of the strongest anti-abortion states in the country, and is expected to sign the bill. When he does, Missouri will become the fifth state this year to pass a new, restrictive abortion bill.
These extreme bills have been passed quickly across red states in the past few months in a deliberate effort to trigger a challenge to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal nationwide. After years of trying to chip away at abortion rights, conservatives now emboldened by President Donald Trump’s appointment of two right-leaning SCOTUS justices are now pushing sweeping bills, in hopes that one will make it to the high court and get Roe overturned.
The new restrictions in Missouri would make it illegal to have an abortion after eight weeks of pregnancy, before many women even know they’re pregant. And doctors who perform abortions would be subject to up to 15 years in prison. Alabama’s law, which is not yet in effect, outlaws all abortion, except for when a pregnancy poses a “serious health risk” to the mother. There would be no exceptions for rape and incest, and doctors who perform abortions could face 99 years in prison.
Missouri already has some of the most restrictive regulations around abortion. Women seeking to terminate a pregnancy are already subject to a 72-hour waiting period between their consultation and the abortion procedure itself, and there’s only one clinic in the whole state that provides abortion services.
In the run-up to the Missouri House vote, a heated debate took place on the floor. “Abortion is the ultimate in might makes right,” said GOP Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman. “It’s saying that my economic opportunities will be limited if I do not pay that price with the blood of my child."
Another Republican representative and former law enforcement office, Barry Hovis, said in a baffling speech on the floor of the Missouri House that 90 percent of the rapes he saw as a cop were “date rapes or consensual rapes.”
Democrats, for their part, didn’t parse words: Rep. Sarah Unsicker listed off all the ways the women perform abortions on their own when their unable to get medical care. “Laundry bleach, acid, knitting needles, bicycle spokes, ballpoint pens, jumping from the top of the stairs or the roof," she said, according to CNN. "We will be killing women with this bill," she said.
But just because the bill has passed and is heading to the governor's desk for his signature doesn’t mean the law will ever go into effect. It is expected to be swiftly challenged in the courts. A similar law that passed in Kentucky earlier this year has already been suspended by a judge.
The passage of Alabama’s law earlier this week led to hundreds of panicked calls to abortion clinics from women who weren’t sure whether they could still have the abortions that they had scheduled.
“Let me be clear: You can still get an abortion in the state of Missouri. Clinics are still open, for now,” Dr. Colleen McNicholas, a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health, said in a statement. “Politicians must stop inserting themselves in the patient-provider relationship and allow patients a barrier-free path to make medical decisions about their bodies.”
Cover: Abortion-rights activists react after lawmakers approved a sweeping piece of anti-abortion legislation, a bill that would ban most abortions in the state of Missouri, Friday, May 17, 2019 in Jefferson, Mo. (Christian Gooden/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)