Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens has broadened his call for new abortion restrictions in the state and wants to ensure they would survive any potential court challenge, his spokesman said Thursday.
The Republican quietly issued a proclamation on Wednesday citing provisions he didn't explicitly include in his order calling lawmakers into a special legislative session last month to address abortion issues. The additions include requiring annual health inspections of abortion clinics and making the reports public.
Greitens later said the legislation isn't aimed at completely undoing a St. Louis ordinance that bars discrimination in housing and employment based on reproductive health choices, such as pregnancy or abortion. The governor said the bill would only protect pregnancy care centers, which encourage women not to have abortions, from parts of the ordinance.
Some proponents and opponents have said the legislation would pre-empt the St. Louis ordinance, which Greitens — an abortion opponent — has said makes St. Louis "an abortion sanctuary city."
Among the governor's new requests is to make abortion facilities maintain a written protocol for transferring patients who need "further emergency care to a hospital within a reasonable distance." Greitens specified that he wants to criminalize, not just ban, abortion clinic staff from asking ambulances to respond to calls without sirens or lights for reasons unrelated to patient care. Lawmakers have proposed making it a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison or a $1,000 fine.
Mary Kogut, president of the Planned Parenthood chapter covering St. Louis, has acknowledged there were "times where we may have asked that the siren wasn't on so that it didn't alarm other people," but that the organization has since dropped such policies.
In his proclamation, Greitens said he wants a law to pre-empt local ordinances or policies that hurt "the operations, speech and legal rights" of people because of their views on abortion.
His spokesman, Parker Briden, said Thursday that doesn't mean completely undoing the St. Louis ordinance. Briden said the legislation would pre-empt any provisions that might harm pregnancy care centers, which sometimes have a religious affiliation and, along with discouraging abortion, provide care for pregnant women and their babies.
Briden said the legislation also would pre-empt local ordinances that might force people to rent or sell building space to abortion facilities, require people to participate in abortion procedures against their religious beliefs or require employers to cover abortions in health insurance plans.
Greitens, in a video posted online late Wednesday, criticized some media portrayals of the bill. The legislation has at times been described, including by The Associated Press, as a way to undo or pre-empt the local rule. Senate Republicans released a statement in mid-June saying the bill would pre-empt the ordinance.
While largely symbolic, the St. Louis ordinance bans employers from firing, refusing to hire or disciplining women because they have an abortion, take contraception, use artificial insemination or become pregnant while not married. It also bans such discrimination in housing. The ordinance was approved in the heavily Democratic city in February in an effort to pre-empt any new state law that restrict abortion rights.
The Senate likely won't consider the legislation until at least the week of July 24 because of scheduling issues, Senate Majority Leader Mike Kehoe said Thursday.
The special session began on June 12, although senators have not convened to work since the legislation was passed by the House on June 20.