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Supreme Court ruling on abortion rights could impact Missouri, Illinois facilities

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Colleen McNicholas of Planned Parenthood St. Louis Region believes patients will be left in the dark if a decision is overturned.

ST. LOUIS — Supreme Court Justices met Wednesday to hear arguments over the most serious challenge to abortion rights in more than 30 years.

Justices weighed Mississippi's bid to overturn Roe vs Wade.

The case also involves a Mississippi law that would limit abortions to women who are no more than 15 weeks pregnant.

If this is overruled, it could set a new standard for states across the country that are looking to enact their own abortion bans.

While the debate happens in Washington D.C., it's a historic case that will be felt right here in Missouri and Illinois.

REACTIONS

U.S. Senator Josh Hawley is ready for the almost-50-year decision to be flipped.

The Republican from Missouri said he believes it's unconstitutional.

"I am 100% pro-life," Hawley said. "This is the greatest injustice of our lifetimes. If this was returned to the states, we'd see a lot of different laws and rules and regulations in different states and people can debate and decide for themselves. I think it would be a very healthy thing for the country, people would seek common ground and they can do something after half a century."

U.S. Representative Billy Long, a Republican who represents southwest Missouri and is running to replace Roy Blunt in the U.S. Senate, also gave a statement following Wednesday's hearing:

"I was a senior in High School when Roe v Wade was decided in 1973. I didn't understand how anyone taking an innocent human life was O.K. then, and nothing has changed my mind in the intervening 48 years. It is a barbaric practice. Today, the Supreme Court heard a direct challenge to the erroneous Roe decision. At issue is Mississippi's 15 week ban on abortion. If the Supreme Court upholds this law, it will have a massive impact on the future of abortion in this country. I hope and pray that they will make the right decision, and overturn this terrible policy. There is no such thing as a constitutional right to kill an innocent human being."

On Twitter, St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones voiced her thoughts:

On Wednesday, St. Louis' Health and Human Services Committee intentionally met on the same day as the Supreme Court hearing.

"The timing of the resolution being heard today with Health and Human Services Committee is intentional, as the Supreme Court had their first oral arguments for Mississippi," Alderman Bill Stephens said. 

The Ward 12 alderman presented Resolution 141. It's a declaration of support in safeguarding fundamental reproductive rights in St. Louis.

"Resolutions are important because they are stances by our legislative branch of government," he said. "We are establishing a stance. It informs the public - this is how we, as the duly elected representatives of this city, of our taxpayers, of our neighbors, stand on this issue." 

The resolution passed out of committee unanimously and will be presented to the Board of Aldermen on Friday for its second hearing. 

Credit: KSDK

Advocates like Dr. Colleen McNicholas, the chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood–St. Louis Region, believes patients will be left in the dark if a decision is overturned.

Plus, she said this would put the only abortion clinic in Missouri at risk.

"Missouri has an abortion ban at a lower gestational age already in the court," she said. "Could Missouri be the next state to join Texas with an abortion ban so early most folks don't even know they are pregnant? Absolutely it could." 

RELATED: Missouri's controversial abortion law to be heard by federal appeals court

She said that is just another factor that has some patients leaving the state.

"Missouri is among one of the most restrictive states when it comes to abortion access," Dr. McNicholas said. "We know that most Missourians are already fleeing the state to access care that’s consistent with medicine and science."

She said new laws and regulations have come into play in the Show-Me State over the last decade. This includes preventing insurances from paying abortion services and longer waiting periods to get access to one. 

Plus, the Central West End location is the only one in the entire state. 

"We’re talking about folks driving multiple miles to get that basic reproductive healthcare," she said. 

Credit: KSDK

In Illinois, Planned Parenthood facilities have been feeling the effects of the Texas law that effectively bans abortions at six weeks of pregnancy.

She said there has been an influx of out-of-state patients going to their facilities in southern Illinois.

"As Texans fill the schedules in Oklahoma and Kansas, well, those folks also need access to abortion, so we are seeing an upward displacement in Illinois," she said. "We are seeing patients get in the car at 2 in the morning, drive nine hours for me to hand them a pill to get back in the car, drive nine hours back because that’s the only day they can access abortion. 

"We expect that if Texas' law continues to be enforced, and if there is a devastating decision here in the Mississippi case, more than 36 million people are going to lose access to abortion care and southern Illinois may very well be the geographical place to get that care."

WHAT'S NEXT?

The justices will meet again soon to vote on the Mississippi case.

From there, the justices will write opinions, which could take months.

The final decision isn't expected to be announced until sometime in June.