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Supreme Court decision could mean near total abortion ban in Missouri

Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A draft U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning landmark rulings on abortion rights could end most abortions in Missouri.

At issue is a case out of Mississippi that the Supreme Court heard last December. Politico reported Monday on a draft opinion, which has the support of the majority of judges, that would overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. In effect, it would leave the legality of abortion up to individual states.

Legislation that Missouri lawmakers passed and Gov. Mike Parson signed in 2019 would ban abortions in the state with the exception of medical emergencies if Roe and Casey are overturned. There would be no exceptions for rape or incest. The law in question is currently ensnared in federal litigation.

“If this draft is accurate, Missouri will be an abortion free state!” tweeted former Missouri House Speaker Elijah Haahr, who championed the legislation that ended up going to Parson’s desk on the last day of the 2019 session.

In a statement released late Monday evening, Yamelsie Rodríguez, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri said while the leaked opinion is "just a draft, it previews what we’ve long been preparing for — the day Roe v. Wade is overturned and the legal right to abortion comes to an end in this country."

"We knew this opinion was coming and while it’s not official, it brings us one step closer to an impending public health crisis," Rodríguez said. "For now, patients seeking abortion care in Missouri and Illinois, can and should continue to show up for your appointments — abortion remains legal today. No matter what, with our partners, we will fight for what little is left of abortion access in Missouri and push forward to expand in Illinois where abortion access is protected beyond Roe.”

Reaction to Politico’s story was swift from both political parties.

While suggesting that the leak of the draft, which Politico noted wasn’t necessarily the final decision, was a way to intimidate judges, U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, tweeted that Supreme Court Judge Samuel Alito’s work was “heck of an opinion.”

“Voluminously researched, tightly argued, and morally powerful,” Hawley wrote.

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, a Democrat, said in a statement that the potential decision means that “first they come for our bodies - then they come for voting rights, civil rights, LGBTQ rights.”

“If there was ever a time to hit the alarm and break the glass, this is it. Congress must take action to protect abortion rights and keep these bans off of our bodies,” said Jones.

Impact on U.S. Senate contest

For decades, Missouri voters, especially in rural areas, have sent state legislators of both parties to Jefferson City who voted to curb abortion rights. But the leading Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate said a near total ban on abortion, even in the cases of rape and incest, could be too far for some voters.

Democrat Lucas Kunce said in a statement, “It is fundamentally necessary that the U.S. Congress codify Roe v. Wade immediately. If they won’t, we need to replace them.”

One of Kunce’s Democratic rivals, Trudy Busch Valentine, said in a statement that it’s “heartbreaking that the Supreme Court is now on the brink of repealing it.”

“We need to codify Roe at the federal level immediately,” Valentine wrote.

Spencer Toder tweeted: “I started to put up a video about how if you voted for me I would codify Roe. I will, but for now, let's focus on what matters. I'll personally match the next $500 donated to@MOAbortionFund.”

But actually getting Congress to codify the right to an abortion in federal law likely faces slim chances of passing the Senate, which is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. It would probably require getting rid of the filibuster, which Kunce alluded to in a follow-up Tweet.

“Get rid of the filibuster and protect Americans' right to an abortion. Not ready? Get the hell out of the way,” Kunce wrote.

All of the major Republican candidates oppose abortion rights.

Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Harrisonville, echoed Hawley in criticizing the decision to leak the draft, calling the move “outrageous and dangerous.”

“I pray and remain hopeful [the U.S. Supreme Court] stays true to this potential decision, but this unprecedented, intentional leak is malicious and threatens the independence of our highest court,” Hartzler tweeted on Monday.

Former Missouri Gov. and current U.S. Senate candidate Eric Greitens also criticized the leak of the draft, stating in a statement that the person who sent the document to Politico is "trying to weaponize the court and turn the sacred institution into a political cudgel during the midterm elections."

"Life is precious and worthy of protection — especially the unborn who are the most vulnerable," said Greitens, who noted that he called a special session to restrict abortion when he was governor.

In a statement, U.S. Rep. Billy Long, R-Springfield, said when Roe v. Wade was decided, “I didn’t understand abortion then, and I don’t understand it now.”

“I am optimistic that these reports are true, and that the Supreme Court will do the right thing, finally overturning this travesty of a decision,” Long said. “I have always stood up for the Right to Life, and will continue to do so.”

Attorney General and Republican candidate Eric Schmitt tweeted: “I’ve argued it in court briefings…Overturn Roe v Wade.”

Politico’s article said that the decision in the Mississippi abortion case may not be issued for two months. Missouri’s U.S. Senate primary is slated for Aug. 2.

Copyright 2022 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Since entering the world of professional journalism in 2006, Jason Rosenbaum dove head first into the world of politics, policy and even rock and roll music. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Rosenbaum spent more than four years in the Missouri State Capitol writing for the Columbia Daily Tribune, Missouri Lawyers Media and the St. Louis Beacon.