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Kansas City Council approves financial help for city employees seeking out-of-state abortions

A protester rallies in front of Kansas City, Missouri, City Hall. She wears a pink t-shirt and holds a sign that reads, "You didn't like wearing a mask, imagine being told you have to have a baby."
Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga
/
KCUR 89.3
Alexis Redfairn-Ogunyemi, a high school student from Olathe, protests the overturning of Roe v. Wade in front of Kansas City, Missouri, City Hall on Saturday.

The City Council on Thursday also passed a resolution declaring reproductive rights to be "fundamental human rights."

The Kansas City Council on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a resolution to provide financial assistance to city employees seeking an out-of-state abortion.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last week overturning Roe v. Wade, nearly all abortions in Missouri are now illegal, forcing Missourians who need an abortion to travel to states such as Kansas or Illinois where the procedure is still legal.

For Kansas City residents, the closest health clinics still providing abortions are the Planned Parenthood clinic and the Center for Women’s Health, both in Overland Park, Kansas.

Although the resolution does not explicitly mention abortion, it provides for reimbursement to city employees or their dependents for health care-related travel expenses incurred to obtain health care outside the state. It explicitly states that the reimbursement funds will not come from the city’s general fund or funds generated by taxes.

On Friday, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt says he would file a lawsuit over the Kansas City Council resolution, as well as a similar proposal being considered in St. Louis.

The resolution was passed by a vote of 10-2. Councilmembers Dan Fowler and Heather Hall cast the sole no votes.

Fowler said he wanted the resolution to go through a council committee. Hall said she believes local government needs to stay out of private medical decisions.

Mayor Quinton Lucas, who introduced the resolution, said it directs the city manager to negotiate insurance coverage for city employees to ensure that any care approved by the Food and Drug Administration remains available.

“This relates to negotiation purely with our insurance plans as to how we make sure that types of reproductive care that were available more than one week ago continue to be available to our employees, something that we've seen a number of private sector employees do as well as others,” Lucas said.

Councilwoman Melissa Robinson added an amendment to cover travel-related expenses and any other barriers associated with obtaining out-of-state health care.

The resolution also requests that the city's Healthcare System Board of Trustees initiate a “mid-year enrollment period in the earliest reasonable timeframe” allowing city employees to choose a health care plan that covers all reproductive health treatments and procedures.

The council also passed a resolution declaring that reproductive rights “are fundamental human rights and criminalizing access to reproductive rights is a form of discrimination against women, girls and others who can become pregnant.”

Councilwoman Ryana Parks-Shaw, who co-sponsored the resolution, said abortion is an essential part of healthcare and criminalizing it would disproportionately affect marginalized groups.

“To fully grasp the damage that this will do to Black and brown people of childbearing age and their offspring, it's important to understand that the state and city's health care system has been failing us for years,” she said.

Immediately following the Supreme Court’s decision, Schmitt and Gov. Mike Parson moved to put the state’s 2019 abortion trigger ban into effect. That law prohibits nearly all abortions in Missouri, with no exceptions for rape or incest.

The ban has already caused confusion. Earlier this week, Saint Luke’s Health System announced that it would stop providing emergency contraceptives, saying it was concerned about possible criminal prosecutions under the law.

Saint Luke’s reversed its decision on Wednesday after Parson announced on Twitter that Missouri’s law does not change the legality of contraceptives and that contraceptives are not abortions.

KCUR’s Jodi Fortino contributed reporting. 

Updated: July 1, 2022 at 10:48 AM CDT
This story was updated after Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced he would sue Kansas City over the resolution.
Celisa Calacal covers Missouri politics and local government for KCUR. Follow her on Twitter @celisa_mia or email her at celisa@kcur.org.
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