A bill is bouncing back and forth between the Missouri House and Senate as lawmakers try to settle on new abortion restriction provisions. The bill would effectively roll back an anti-discrimination law passed in February that protected women’s reproductive health choices in St. Louis. It also would test the limits of states’ rights to regulate abortion against the Supreme Court’s mandate that lawmakers not create “undue burden or substantial obstacle” for women seeking to terminate a pregnancy.
The House has pushed to add back in several items the Senate removed from the bill to avoid a Democratic filibuster. One would make it a crime for an abortion clinic to interfere with emergency medical personnel, according to KWMU St. Louis. That provision refers, according to the Associated Press, to past occasional requests from a St. Louis abortion clinic that ambulances not use their lights or sirens out of concern of causing alarm. A second was a quibble between the House and Senate on whether the state attorney general alone should be empowered to enforce abortion laws, or if local prosecutors could be included in the chain of command.
Other provisions addressed the requirement of annual, unannounced inspection of abortion clinics. There was also a new requirement that fetal tissue be independently inspected by a pathologist within a certain span of time and reported to the health department to ensure it matched the medical records made by the abortion provider. If there was a discrepancy, the Associated Press reports, that could be another trigger for an unannounced inspection of the abortion facility.
The most controversial item addressed by the House was the repeal of a St. Louis law that protected women from job and housing discrimination on the basis of not only whether they’ve sought an abortion, but if they use birth control. The Reproductive Health and Pregnancy Nondiscrimination Ordinance was made law by the St. Louis City Board of Aldermen in February, but four months later the state government is trying to roll it back.
The ordinance sponsor, Alderwoman Megan Ellyia-Green, said at the time it was passed, “Being in a ‘red state’ doesn’t mean that we can’t pass progressive policy at the local level to protect women’s ability to make personal decisions about their reproductive health without the intrusion of their employers or landlords.” Republican governor Eric Greitens described the ordinance as one that would turn St. Louis into “abortion sanctuary city.”
Next week the House will vote on the amendments to the bill. If they pass it, the bill will go back to the Senate, and it will be up to them to either stamp it, or amend it further.