April 2022 Church & State Magazine

Mo. Seeks To Penalize Out-Of-State Abortions

  Mo. Seeks To Penalize Out-Of-State Abortions

Anticipating that legal abortion may be undermined or overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court soon, a legislator in Missouri has put forth a measure designed to curtail the ability of women to leave the state to obtain the procedure elsewhere.

Under a bill sponsored by Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman (R-Arnold), private citizens could file lawsuits against anyone who helps a Missouri resident obtain an abortion in another state. Enforcement of the law would be left up to state residents, not the government. (The scheme is based on a Texas provision that remains in force while legal challenges against it proceed.)

Many legal observers believe that a case pending before the high court, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, will give the court an opportunity to undermine or overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that established the right to legal abortion. If that happens, states will be free to put new restrictions on abortion. (The ruling is expected before the end of June.)

Missouri already has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, and there’s only one abortion clinic in the state. As a result, many women travel to neighboring Illinois, where the laws are more relaxed. This troubles Coleman. She told The Washington Post, “If your neighboring state doesn’t have pro-life protections, it minimizes the ability to protect the unborn in your state.”

Olivia Cappello, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood, called Coleman’s proposed law “wild” and “bonk­ers”, adding that it is “the most extraordinary provision we have ever seen.”

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