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Missouri becomes first state, but not last, to outlaw abortion after high court ruling

Missouri is one of 13 states with laws triggering an abortion ban after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (CN) — Missouri became the first in what is expected to be a wave of states to effectively outlaw abortion in the wake of the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling Friday morning overturning Roe v. Wade.

Missouri’s Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a Republican and U.S. Senate candidate, announced the activation of the state's so-called trigger law shortly after the high court's decision was released.

“Today, following the United States Supreme Court’s ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade, with the issuance of an attorney general opinion, my office has yet again reinforced Missouri’s dedication to protecting the sanctity of life, both born and unborn,” Schmitt said in a statement. “With this attorney general opinion, my office has effectively ended abortion in Missouri, becoming the first state in the country to do so following the court’s ruling.”

He added, “My office has been fighting to uphold the sanctity of life since I became attorney general, culminating in today’s momentous court ruling and attorney general opinion. I will continue the fight to protect all life, born and unborn.”

Schmitt based his legal opinion on Section B of House Bill 126, which was passed in 2019, that allowed Missouri to outlaw abortion if Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court’s conservative super-majority.

The opinion states that “no abortion shall be performed or induced upon a woman, except in cases of medical emergency.” It includes no exceptions for cases of rape, incest or human trafficking.

The ban makes performing an abortion a Class B felony and medical providers could lose their license.

Missouri is one of 13 states, mainly in the South and Midwest, that already have trigger laws on the books that ban abortion in the event Roe is overturned, and another half dozen states have near-total bans after six weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant.

Schmitt’s ruling drew backlash from Democratic leaders. St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, a progressive Democrat, called her fellow party members to join together to fight the decision.

“If you’re a Democratic leader who has somehow managed to stay silent on abortion rights, it’s far past time for you to speak out and join together with us in this fight,” Jones said in a statement. “Overturning Roe v. Wade was just the first step in a right-wing plot to take away our freedoms, and more attacks are coming. From limiting access to the ballot box to overturning marriage equality to prohibiting teachers from teaching accurate history, our children could grow up with fewer rights than we ourselves did. That’s not the future I want for my son.”

She added, “Abortion is health care, and it should be safe and accessible to all who need it. Our right to make our own health care decisions is an inalienable one, no matter what. As mayor, I will fight like hell to protect reproductive health care and give St. Louisans the support they need to make the best decisions for themselves and their families.”

St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page, a Democrat, signed an executive order in March expanding reproductive health services in the state’s most populated county.

“Rolling back Roe triggers a major public health crisis in Missouri, where our state legislature has already discussed some of the most extreme laws in the country,” Page said in a statement. “Abortion should be legal, safe, accessible, and affordable.”

Missouri is one of several states moving quickly on abortion bans.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, a Republican, filed a motion Friday morning to dissolve an injunction on the state’s fetal heartbeat law, which was issued on the basis of Roe.

The Supreme Court ruling, a 6-3 split, was made in a case challenging Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act passed in 2018. A federal judge called the law unconstitutional in issuing an injunction and the state’s lone abortion provider, which filed the lawsuit challenging the law, prevailed again in the Fifth Circuit leading to the appeal to the highest court in the land.

The decision Friday does not come as a surprise after a draft of the decision was leaked in May.

In between Ohio and Missouri sits Illinois, where the right to an abortion has been enshrined in state law since 2019. Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker, who signed that law three years ago, pledged Friday that the Prairie State would remain a “safe haven” committed to upholding abortion access and women’s reproductive rights.

“In Illinois, Roe v. Wade is still the law, and it will remain the law so long as we have a pro-choice legislature and a pro-choice governor,” he said.

In a press conference convened shortly after the Supreme Court’s decision was handed down, Pritzker called for a special legislative session of the Illinois General Assembly to “more firmly protect women’s reproductive rights” and to address potential future threats to Illinoisans' civil rights. He alluded to Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion suggesting that contraception, same-sex marriage and even the legality of consenting sexual activity between same-sex partners may be next on the high court’s chopping block.

“The extremists on the Supreme Court have made an abhorrent decision,” Pritzker said, later adding, “No if ands or buts about it, we are heading down a dangerous spiral that will erode our democracy.”   

Illinois is surrounded by states like Missouri that either have anti-abortion trigger laws in place or are likely to take legal action to restrict abortion access with the overturning of Roe.

Democratic Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, along with Democratic state Representative Kelly Cassidy, referenced this in their own press conference on Friday afternoon, pledging that the city would remain an “oasis” both for residents and for out-of-state abortion seekers.

“There’s West Coast and East Coast and then there’s Illinois. And they’re all looking at us,” Cassidy said.

Lightfoot has previously committed $500,000 as a “down payment” on funding reproductive rights services in Chicago, and said Friday her 2023 budget proposal for the city would include funding for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.

“Here in Chicago, we will continue to fight for the right to choose, no matter what the Supreme Court says or does,” Lightfoot said.  

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