The St. Louis Board of Aldermen gave final approval July 15 to use federal pandemic funding to help women obtain abortions out of state, where they are legal.
The St. Louis Reproductive Equity Fund allocates $1 million the city received from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to provide grants for transportation, child care and other logistical needs related to obtaining an abortion.
“Every human being, born and unborn, is precious and deserving of protection,” Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski said in a statement about the measure. “The Church, naturally, opposes any government funding that contributes to the destruction of life and rather seeks to support and affirm pregnant women faced with difficulties so they and their children may thrive.”
Mayor Tishaura O. Jones signed the bill (Board Bill 61) on July 21. The same day, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a lawsuit against the city, arguing that state law prohibits public money from being used for “performing or assisting an abortion.”
Section § 188.205, RSMo states: “It shall be unlawful for any public funds to be expended for the purpose of performing or assisting an abortion, not necessary to save the life of the mother, or for the purpose of encouraging or counseling a woman to have an abortion not necessary to save her life.”
The bill, sponsored by Alderwoman Annie Rice, would direct a total of $3.05 million, and also include COVID-19 testing, vaccination and treatment efforts; as well as pregnancy care providers, such as doulas and health advocates to help navigate medical care.
The St. Louis County Council in July rejected a similar proposal to use $1.25 million in federal pandemic aid to help women obtain out-of-state abortions. Several council members said the effort was illegal and cited a threat from Attorney General Schmitt that he would sue to block the measure.