The city of St. Louis, Missouri is being sued by state Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a Republican, for passing a bill to provide women with funds to travel out of state to abortions.
On July 15, the St. Louis Alderman’s Board passed Council Bill 61 (BB61), which establishes a $1.5 million “Reproductive Equity Fund,” the money from the US Federal Bailout Act.
While $1 million is set aside for abortion access, including expenses such as logistics, transportation, and childcare, the remaining $500,000 will be used to provide “the access to reproductive health care,” which includes abortion, according to a July 21 report. Press release from Schmitt’s office.
After Mayor Tishaura Jones, a Democrat, signed into law BB61, Schmitt filed a lawsuit arguing that the city violated state laws.
“The city’s use of public funds, public employees, and public facilities to encourage and assist abortion violates the Missouri General Assembly’s determination that the state and all of its political subdivisions are a ‘sanctuary of life “that protects pregnant women and their unborn children,” the lawsuit argues (pdf).
“The city is a ‘political subdivision’ of the state, and is therefore a ‘life sanctuary’ that ‘protects pregnant women and their unborn children’ under state law.”
The lawsuit goes on to assert that Section 188.210 makes it illegal for doctors, nurses, social workers, counselors and health care personnel who act in the course of public employment to advise or encourage sex-selective abortion. .
By administering the Reproductive Equity Fund under BB61, public employees will encourage or assist abortion, thereby violating Section 188.210.
“My office today filed a lawsuit to stop Mayor Jones and the City of St. Louis Board of Aldermen’s blatantly illegal decision to spend Missourians’ hard-earned taxpayer dollars on out-of-state abortions,” Schmidt said in the statement.
Abortion in Missouri
The lawsuit comes amid some confusion over the status of abortion in Missouri. State law prohibits abortions except in medical emergencies or when the pregnant woman’s life is in danger. It is unclear which medical conditions would be considered an emergency.
On July 13, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) released a fact sheet (pdf) clarifying that the term “medical emergency” in the abortion exemptions would have the meaning defined in section 188.015.
The article defines a medical emergency as a condition “based on reasonable medical judgment” in which failure to perform or delay an abortion would risk physical impairment or death of the pregnant woman.
The DHSS fact sheet also makes it clear that the agency is not responsible for determining whether a pregnancy is legal or illegal. These decisions are left to local law enforcement authorities, local prosecutors, and the Missouri Attorney General’s Office for enforcement.