Those who can afford it will get abortion as health care. Those who can't will have to either bear the child, or turn to other means. It's these other means that Texas and other red states will target next, including making crossing state lines to get an abortion illegal, as well as outlawing abortion pills.
An unusual new provision, introduced by state Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman (R), would allow private citizens to sue anyone who helps a Missouri resident obtain an abortion out of state, using the novel legal strategy behind the restrictive law in Texas that since September has banned abortions in that state after six weeks of pregnancy.
Coleman has attached the measure as an amendment to several abortion-related bills that have made it through committee and are waiting to be heard on the floor of the House of Representatives.
Abortion rights advocates say the measure is unconstitutional because it would effectively allow states to enact laws beyond their jurisdictions, but the Republican-led Missouri legislature has been supportive of creative approaches to antiabortion legislation in the past. The measure could signal a new strategy by the antiabortion movement to extend its influence beyond the conservative states poised to tighten restrictions if the Supreme Court moves this summer to overturn its landmark precedent protecting abortion rights.
“If your neighboring state doesn’t have pro-life protections, it minimizes the ability to protect the unborn in your state,” said Coleman, who said she’s been trying to figure out how to crack down on out-of-state abortions since Planned Parenthood opened an abortion clinic on the Illinois-Missouri border in 2019.
A Supreme Court decision that undercuts Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion across the United States, probably would create a national landscape that encourages patients to cross state lines for abortions, with Democrat-led states moving to protect abortion rights as Republican-led states further limit them.
The trend has been apparent in Texas, where the majority of people seeking abortions since the state’s six-week abortion ban took effect in September have been able to obtain the procedure at clinics in neighboring states, or by ordering abortion pills in the mail, according to a report from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project. Demand for abortions has skyrocketed in Oklahoma, Louisiana, New Mexico and other nearby states. Planned Parenthood clinics in states that border Texas reported that patient traffic increased by nearly 800 percent, and independent providers reported comparable increases.
Since Planned Parenthood opened its clinic on the Missouri-Illinois border in October 2019, 10,644 Missouri residents have received abortion care at the clinic, according to Planned Parenthood. By early 2021, the last remaining clinic in Missouri was typically providing between 10 and 20 abortions per month, according to preliminary data from the Missouri Department of Health.
Coleman said she hopes her amendment will thwart efforts by Missourians to cross state lines for abortions. The measure would target anyone even tangentially involved in an abortion performed on a Missouri resident, including the hotline staffers who make the appointments, the marketing representatives who advertise out-of-state clinics, and the Illinois and Kansas-based doctors who handle the procedure. Her amendment also would make it illegal to manufacture, transport, possess or distribute abortion pills in Missouri.
Olivia Cappello, the press officer for state media campaigns at Planned Parenthood, called the idea “wild” and “bonkers.” She called the proposal “the most extraordinary provision we have ever seen.”
If enacted, the measure almost certainly would face a swift legal challenge.