Missouri Republicans propose constitutional amendment to strengthen abortion ban
Representatives from Missouri for Life, the Missouri Catholic Conference and other organizations argued that abortion is now illegal in Missouri, so funding it should be as well.
Anti-abortion senators proposed several ways on Wednesday to limit state funding for reproductive health care and enshrine anti-abortion language in the state constitution.
SJR 8 proposes a constitutional amendment, which would require a statewide vote, that would prevent the Missouri government from funding abortion providers or their affiliates. SB 160 proposes a similar concept, though in statute, not as a constitutional amendment. SJR 19 would amend the state constitution after a statewide vote to prevent any part of it being misconstrued to protect abortion.
All three were presented in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee Wednesday.
Testifying in support of the proposals were representatives from Missouri for Life, the Missouri Catholic Conference and other anti-abortion organizations. They argued that abortion is now illegal in Missouri, so funding it should be as well. Several witnesses voiced concerns about Medicaid funding going to Planned Parenthood.
Samuel Lee, the director of Campaign Life Missouri, said Planned Parenthood is a “provider and promoter” of abortions. He also raised concerns about Medicaid-funded abortions, which are not possible under the federal Hyde Amendment, except in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest. In Missouri abortion is only available in cases of life endangerment.
Vanessa Wellberry, vice president of policy and advocacy at Planned Parenthood, said she is concerned about the language which would deny funding and Medicaid coverage to abortion provider affiliates, as Planned Parenthood provides abortion care in other states.
Other witnesses in opposition from the Missouri Family Health Council and Pro Choice Missouri shared their concerns about access to birth control, pap smears and mammograms, STI testing and gender-affirming care if Planned Parenthood lost funding.
Both witnesses were questioned by Sen. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove, who sponsored SJR 19. He asked why they were concerned about loss of funding for facilities that do not provide abortions. Both witnesses voiced concerns about the term “affiliate or associate.” Planned Parenthood in Missouri is affiliated with Planned Parenthood clinics in other states that provide abortions. Moon suggested that Planned Parenthood could stop providing abortions in other states to continue to be able to operate in Missouri.
Several more witnesses in opposition voiced their concerns about the high maternal mortality rate in Missouri. Maggie Olivia, from Pro Choice Missouri, gave testimony praising Planned Parenthood’s trauma-informed approach to women’s health. Olivia said she could not go to any OB-GYN appointment without trauma-informed care due to a previous sexual assault. Other witnesses also mentioned their concerns about the strain any lack of funding for Planned Parenthood would put on other health care providers.
Moon argued that abortion has caused Missouri to lose potential population. When questioned by Sen. Jill Carter, R-Granby, he denied that this resolution was driven by religious talking points.
Moon said life begins at conception, saying, “It’s a scientific fact.” He based this statement on a study from the American College of Pediatricians, a conservative advocacy group.
Sam Hawickhorst, from Pro Choice Missouri, testified that as a University of Missouri student in 2015, at 22 years old, she learned she was pregnant. Her ex-partner wanted nothing to do with the pregnancy and her family was not entirely supportive. Hawickhorst said she made the decision to have an abortion, and went through the difficult process of going to St. Louis twice, with a 72-hour gap between visits.
On her second visit, she was able to terminate her pregnancy with an abortion pill.
Hawickhorst said abortion is an important and necessary part of health care, and that she did not regret her abortion. Several other witnesses gave similar testimony. A representative from the National Council of Jewish Women in St. Louis testified that SJR 19 was in opposition to the Jewish faith and would be enshrining the beliefs of one religion into law.
House Democrats released a statement after the hearing noting they have proposed nine different bills to protect access to birth control, abortion and medically accurate information regarding reproductive health. None of these bills have been sent to a committee since their proposal.
This story originally appeared in the Columbia Missourian. It can be republished in print or online.