MISSOURI, USA — Missouri's Republican-led Legislature could soon be considering legislation similar to a new Texas law that bans most abortions, and abortion-rights advocates protested that prospect Thursday before a bill was even written.
About 200 abortion-rights protesters rallied on the steps of the old St. Louis courthouse against the possibility of further restrictions on the procedure.
Karla Stribling, 56, of Warrenton, said she's worried that the Texas law — the most restrictive in the nation — would become a blueprint for Missouri and other states.
The Texas law prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, which usually happens around six weeks, before some women know they’re pregnant.
The Justice Department on Thursday sued to overturn the Texas law, and courts have blocked similar restrictions elsewhere. But Texas’ law leaves enforcement up to private citizens through civil lawsuits, which could help it survive legal challenges.
“At less than six weeks, a lot of women don’t know they’re pregnant,” Stribling said. “It’s going to be so hard to get an abortion and only the wealthy will be able to get one, like in the past. It’s all going backward.”
Republican Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, of Arnold, said she plans to file a bill based partly on the new Texas law. It's likely many others will follow suit in the heavily Republican state Legislature, especially heading into 2022 elections as GOP candidates look to capitalize on their conservative credentials.
Missouri lawmakers in 2019 passed a bill that would ban abortions as early as the eighth week of pregnancy, but it's entangled in legal battles. A hearing on the case in federal appeals court is scheduled for Sept. 21.
Coleman said she hopes to enact legislation that won't perpetually be tied up in legal challenges. She plans to craft a bill that, as in Texas, would allow private citizens to sue abortion providers.
“It would be the next piece of making sure that Missouri is abortion-free," Coleman said. “We’re doing everything we can to realize that goal and will continue to do so.”
Any legislative action on abortion is still months away.
Republican Gov. Mike Parson has said he doesn't plan to call lawmakers back for a special session before their regular legislative session begins in January. Parson’s spokeswoman repeated that he has no plans for a special session on abortion following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision this month to allow the Texas law to take effect.
Republican lawmakers in at least half a dozen states have said they planned to introduce bills using the Texas law as a model, hoping it provides a pathway to enacting the kind of abortion crackdown they have sought for years.