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Missouri Attorney General says he’ll sue Kansas City over financial help for out-of-state abortions

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt makes his case why he should be Missouri’s next senator to a ballroom of people in St. Charles at the state GOP's annual Lincoln Days on Feb. 12, 2022. U.S. Reps. Billy Long and Vicky Hartzler and Attorney Mark McCloskey also attended the candidate forum.
Eric Schmid
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt makes his case why he should be Missouri’s next senator to a ballroom of people in St. Charles at the state GOP's annual Lincoln Days on Feb. 12, 2022.

The Kansas City Council approved a resolution on Thursday that would provide financial assistance to city employees who seek an abortion outside of Missouri, where nearly all abortions are now illegal.

A week after the Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt on Friday said he plans to sue Kansas City after the City Council approved a resolution to provide financial help to city employees who seek out-of-state abortions.

Nearly all abortions are now illegal in Missouri after Schmitt and Missouri Gov. Mike Parson acted to put the state’s 2019 trigger ban into place. The law targets abortion providers by making it a class B felony to induce an abortion. Clinics or health providers prosecuted under the law could also lose their medical licenses.

“Using hard-earned taxpayer dollars, whether it be ARPA funds or other forms of revenue, to fund abortions is plainly illegal under Missouri law,” Schmitt said in a statement, referring to the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. “St. Louis City and County, and Kansas City, and any others who attempt to authorize taxpayer-funded abortions will be met with a lawsuit from the Missouri Attorney General’s Office.”

Schmitt, who is seeking the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Roy Blunt, cited a Missouri statute that prohibits public funds to be used for abortions.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said in a statement that the city will continue to "proudly and unabashedly stand up for the rights of Missouri women and Missouri families in their healthcare decisions. Kansas City's lawful resolutions are but one step in doing so."

In a statement Friday morning, Lucas added: "Using hard-earned taxpayer dollars, whether it be ARPA funds or other forms of revenue, to fund nonsensical threats and meritless lawsuits violates the state attorney general's ethical obligations as a Missouri attorney."

The resolution passed by the City Council on Thursday explicitly states that reimbursement funds will not come from taxpayer dollars or the city’s general fund. The resolution also does not explicitly mention abortion but rather provides for reimbursement to city employees or their dependents for health care-related travel expenses incurred to obtain health care outside Missouri.

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

The resolution directs City Manager Brian Platt to negotiate employee insurance coverage that ensures 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,” Mayor Quinton Lucas said at Thursday’s council meeting.

The city of St. Louis is considering a bill that would create a $1 million fund using American Rescue Plan dollars to provide support to people seeking an abortion outside Missouri.

Abortions remain legal in Kansas. On Aug. 2, Kansas will hold a referendum on whether to amend the state Constitution to make it clear that the right to an abortion is not rooted in the document. If voters approve the amendment, it would likely open the door to the GOP-controlled legislature enacting further abortion restrictions.

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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