Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that abortions are banned in Missouri, regardless of the length of pregnancy, because of a “trigger law” passed on June 24. A previous version of this story stated that abortions were banned in Missouri after 8 weeks of gestation. That part of HB 126, which included the trigger law, is still being contested in state courts.
On Friday morning, Missouri moved quickly to “effectively end abortions,” with Gov. Mike Parson signing the Right to Life of the Unborn Child Act into law.
The “trigger law” was passed in 2019 as part of broader abortion bill, HB 126. The trigger law was designed to be enacted if the Supreme Court ruled on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, in which Mississippi asked the court to uphold the state’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy and rule there is no constitutional right to abortion. The justices ruled 6-3 in favor of Mississippi, effectively overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling granting that constitutional right.
Missouri law now bans the ability to get an abortion except in the case of a medical emergency. The new statute makes no exceptions for rape or incest, and makes it a class B felony to induce an abortion.
Parson and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt signed the proclamation within an hour of the Supreme Court’s ruling. Missouri is one of 13 states that had such a trigger law in place before the court decision. Prior to Friday, abortions were legal up to 22 weeks of pregnancy in Missouri.
“BREAKING: Missouri has become the first state in the nation to effectively end abortions,” Parson tweeted after signing the bill. “Today, our efforts have produced what generations of Missourians have worked and prayed for: Today, we have won our fight to protect innocent life.”
Abortion-rights groups have been preparing for this moment in Missouri even before the draft opinion on the court’s ultimate ruling leaked in May, according to Mallory Schwarz, the executive director of Pro-Choice Missouri.
“But despite preparing, it’s hard to prepare for your fundamental rights being stripped away,” Schwarz said.
The newly enacted portion of Missouri law prohibits doctors from performing an abortion unless there is a medical emergency. It also creates criminal liability for any person who knowingly performs or induces a non-medical emergency abortion. Doctors who perform abortions are also subject to having their licenses suspended.
Under the law, only providers are subject to criminal liability. It is unclear whether the law will apply to self-induced medication abortions.
Also, all custodial parents must now be notified in writing when a person under 18 seeks abortion. Before HB 126, only one parent was required to be notified, although medical emergencies don’t require consent.
According to a news release from the governor’s office, the administration is working with the attorney general to “quickly resolve any litigation against HB 126 before the Courts that is currently preventing implementation of the law.”
What are your options for an abortion now?
Access to an abortion in Missouri was already difficult before the decision: Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood in St. Louis is the sole provider of abortions in the state.
Missourians can also travel to the Center for Women’s Health in Overland Park, Kansas. In Illinois, a Planned Parenthood office can perform abortions.
Schwarz said most Missourians have already been living in a post-Roe world.
“The vast majority of Missourians already are in the position of fleeing the state to get access elsewhere,” Schwarz said. “Today’s decision will perpetuate further harm against the people already facing the most severe barriers to quality health care: Black people, people of color, people trying to survive paycheck to paycheck, rural communities across our state. And, of course, trans and nonbinary people who are already under attack by the Missouri state legislature.”
Schwarz said those looking to donate resources should consider the Missouri Abortion Fund, which raises money to pay for abortion care. According to their website, it cost on average $671 to care for a patient in 2021, which did not include the cost of travel or lodging.
Pro-Choice Missouri also provides a clinic escort program to help people traveling to Illinois to get an abortion. Schwarz said Pro-Choice is expecting a 220% increase in demand for that service following Friday’s ruling.
She warned that those who are considering self-induced medication abortions should assume there is some form of legal risk involved, despite the lack of clarity in the Missouri abortion law. All forms of birth control and emergency contraception, like Plan B, are still legal and available in Missouri.
“I think what Missourians need to know is that self-managed abortion is safe and effective, but people would assume legal risks if put into a place to make that decision,” Schwarz said. “There are resources available, like the Repro Legal Helpline. There are folks standing at the ready to help answer questions.”
People can visit abortionfinder.org for more information on abortion access.
Missouri lawmakers part of nationwide push to restrict abortion access
Emily Wales, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said in a statement Friday that the decision was the result of a “creeping march to crush fundamental freedoms.”
“Two hundred and fifty years ago, our country’s founders said, ‘All men are created equal.’ Today, the Supreme Court took the ‘men’ part literally, stripping rights from every woman in America,” Wales said. “State by state, we have seen access to abortion virtually eliminated.”
In Kansas, abortion is still protected under the state constitution, but voters there will weigh in on whether or not that should be the case in August.
Amendment 2 would remove the constitutional protection and leave the decision up to lawmakers. Kansas voters will be the first in the country to cast a ballot on abortion following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe, according to Planned Parenthood.
In neighboring Arkansas, the organization said it is pausing medical or surgical abortion care in light of the state’s trigger law.
In May, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed the nation’s strictest abortion ban into law, banning abortion from the moment of conception. Similar to the Texas abortion ban that passed last year, the law will be enforced by civil lawsuits rather than criminal prosecution.
A similar bill was introduced by Missouri Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, a St. Louis-area Republican who is one of the state’s staunchest anti-abortion legislators. The bill didn’t make it far into the legislative session, but similar proposals were introduced across amendments to other bills.
Other measures would have made it illegal to mail abortion drugs in the mail.
In a statement, Coleman praised the Supreme Court’s decision: “Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided, and today’s ruling is a victory for our American system as the court corrects their grave mistake.”
According to The Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit reproductive health policy group, 541 restrictions on abortion have been introduced across 42 states between January and May. Eleven states have enacted restrictions, including Kansas and Oklahoma, and 11 states have enacted protective abortion measures.