Pro-life groups across Missouri lauded the passage of a bill they say will protect the health and safety of women and unborn children and provide protections for pregnancy resource centers.
In a special session called by Gov. Eric Greitens, the Missouri Senate on July 25 passed SB 5 with a vote of 22-9. Greitens signed the measure into law July 26. It pre-empts local governments from enacting ordinances that adversely affect legal rights of individuals based on their views of abortion, requires abortion clinics to be inspected annually and gives the Missouri attorney general greater authority to enforce Missouri's abortion laws.
It also requires abortion clinics to develop plans for managing medical emergencies, requires all fetal tissue (not just a representative sample) from abortion to be sent for pathology exam, provides whistleblower protections for employees involved with abortion, and prohibits abortion clinic workers from instructing first responders not to follow protocol when responding to an emergency at an abortion clinic.
"Today is a great victory for pregnancy care centers that help women and children all over the state," Greitens said in a statement. "I'm proud that many of Missouri's lawmakers stood strong to protect the lives of the innocent unborn and women's health."
Archbishop Robert J. Carlson in a statement said that the measure "will save the lives of unborn children, safeguard the health and safety of women, and protect the freedom of pregnancy resource centers to hire whom they choose. Ultimately, the worth of this special session will not be determined by the money spent, but by the number of lives saved, of which we may never have an exact accounting."
A federal lawsuit filed against the City of St. Louis over ordinance 70459 will continue, according to the archbishop's statement. The lawsuit, filed in May by Our Lady's Inn, St. Louis archdiocesan elementary schools, O'Brien Industrial Holdings LLC and Frank Robert O'Brien, asserts that the ordinance's limited religious exemptions are vague and undefined and do not cover individuals affiliated with organizations that may be exempt. It also forces private businesses to include abortion coverage in their employee health plans, regardless of sincere objections by company owners.
The state legislation addresses the city's ordinance regarding anything related to the direct or indirect involvement with abortion. However, there remain unresolved issues regarding hiring practices, real estate and free speech.
Deacon Sam Lee of Campaign Life Missouri noted that "it's important for people to know as bad as the city ordinance is, it actually spurred state lawmakers into action. This is how God works — He takes bad things and brings good out of them. People can lose sight of that, but this really spurred people into action."
The Missouri Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state's bishops, expressed its gratitude for the passage of the legislation, noting the "Missouri senators and representatives who have worked tirelessly to pass this historic bill and uphold the sanctity of life. After the passage of SB 5, Missouri is once again one of our nation's strongest pro-life leaders."
Missouri Right to Life noted in a statement that "we are very grateful to the Missouri House and Senate leadership, sponsors and members for the passage of this critical pro-life bill. We are especially grateful to Governor Greitens for calling this special session and for his support of this strong pro-life legislation."
There is a possibility that the law will be challenged in court. Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri released a statement that called the Senate bill an effort to eliminate access to abortion in Missouri.
"Missouri's abortion laws are already some of the most restrictive in the nation. Federal courts have blocked some of those medically unnecessary restrictions," said M'Evie Mead, director of policy and organizing. "This political theater is an expensive and ideological ploy to end abortion access in the state."
>> The vote
SB5 passed 22-9. How the senators voted:
Yes — Sens. Brown (16th district), Cunningham (33rd), Dixon (30th), Eigel (23rd), Emery (31st), Hegeman (12th), Hoskins (21st), Kehoe (6th), Koenig (15th), Kraus (8th), Libla (25th), Munzlinger (18th), Onder (2nd), Richard (32nd), Riddle (10th), Romine (3rd), Rowden (19th), Sater (29th), Schatz (26th), Wallingford (27th), Wasson (20th) and Wieland (22nd)
No — Sens. Curls (9th), Holsman (7th), Hummel (4th), Nasheed (5th), Rizzo (11th), Schupp (24th), Sifton (1st), Silvey (17th) and Walsh (13th)