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St. Louis Board of Alderman pass bill to use federal funds for reproductive health care

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen passed a bill to use federal COVID-19 funds for an abortion plan Friday.

ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Board of Alderman is taking action that will help women access abortions. This draws new battle lines in the fight over abortion rights.

The Board of Aldermen passed a bill to use federal COVID-19 funds for an abortion plan Friday. Better known as Board Bill 61, it states that $1,000,000 would go toward out-of-state travel expenses, and $500,000 would go toward reproductive health care services.

While some Missourians are eagerly awaiting this kind of relief, others say it's wasting money better spent elsewhere.

8th Ward Alderwoman Annie Rice is a sponsor of Board Bill Number 61.

"This is an urgent health care crisis, and we are stepping up to meet that need now," Rice said.

She said she's fixed on providing health care to people in the community.

"A million dollars will initially go toward logistical support for people accessing abortion care, which obviously cannot happen in Missouri anymore, but this will be for St. Louis folks who have to seek care out of state," she said

Rice said this includes things like travel, child care support and lodging, because simply going across the river might not be enough anymore. 

"There are health care facilities in Illinois, in Southern Illinois, but those have seen such incredible call volumes, we may have to send patients farther," she said.

Rice said the pandemic made access to health care harder for everyone. She says this bill is a leg-up on all forms of health care, including reproductive rights.

"The other piece is around all-encompassing pregnancy health care," she said.

She said these funds include things like prenatal care, doulas, pregnancy losses, and lactation support.

But not everyone is on board with this bill.

"I think it's an incredible waste of resources."

State Representative Mary Elizabeth Coleman is a co-sponsor in Missouri's current abortion bill, which makes abortion illegal. She also proposed a piece of legislation to stop people from traveling across state lines to get an abortion.

"The city and the Board of Aldermen are really showing where their priorities are by putting $2 million toward a bill that will never have a dime spent out of it," she said.

She said the City has more important issues this money could go toward like procedures for trash pickup and allocating more resources for police to fight crime.

 A signature from Mayor Tishaura Jones is the next step. Friday, she vocalized her support for the legislation, saying in part it will "help make St. Louis a safer, stronger and fairer city."

On the other hand, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt's Press Secretary said in part his office will "take action to stop municipalities from pushing taxpayer-funded abortions."

Rice said after Mayor Jones signs the bill, the next steps include potentially requesting for a proposal process since they still need to iron out how support groups would receive this money.

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