Eric S. Schmitt, attorney general of Missouri. / Missouri Attorney General’s office.

St. Louis, Mo., Jul 6, 2022 / 15:02 pm (CNA).

Local lawmakers in Missouri’s two largest cities, St. Louis and Kansas City, are taking steps to support women who want to travel to other states for abortions, after the practice became illegal in Missouri in late June.

A resolution passed by the Kansas City Council June 30 directs the city manager to develop a plan for reimbursement for “healthcare-related travel expenses and any other barriers for healthcare not available within the City’s limits.” While the resolution does not mention abortion by name, it hints that “recent impediments have been imposed to accessing complete, comprehensive reproductive healthcare in the State of Missouri.” The resolution also directs the city manager to negotiate a mid-year enrollment period for city employees to choose a healthcare plan that covers abortions. 

On the other side of the state, a bill under consideration in St. Louis would create a municipal “Reproductive Equity Fund,” directing $1 million of the city’s American Rescue Plan funds — federal dollars given to the state for COVID relief — toward paying travel expenses for women seeking abortions outside Missouri. The mayor of St. Louis has said she will sign the bill should it reach her desk. 

Missouri is one of more than a dozen states with a “trigger law” banning virtually all abortions, which came into effect soon after the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 24 ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned Roe v. Wade and returned the question of abortion policy to the states. 

On July 1, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said he plans to sue Kansas City, saying the city’s plan amounts to a use of taxpayer funds for abortions, which is prohibited under state law. The Kansas City resolution states that the reimbursement is not to be funded by taxpayers, but does not specify from where the funds are to come. 

“Using hard-earned taxpayer dollars, whether it be [American Rescue Plan] funds or other forms of revenue, to fund abortions is plainly illegal under Missouri law,” Schmitt said in a statement

“St. Louis City and County, and Kansas City, and any others who attempt to authorize taxpayer-funded abortions will be met with a lawsuit from the Missouri Attorney General’s Office.”

St. Louis and Kansas City both lie on the borders with states with more permissive abortion laws than Missouri’s. Across the river from St. Louis in Illinois, the state has lifted almost all restrictions on abortion in recent years. A new Planned Parenthood “megaclinic” in Illinois near St. Louis has positioned itself as a regional hub for women seeking abortions. In Kansas, where abortion is legal, voters in the state are set to vote in August on a constitutional amendment which, if passed, would exclude a right to abortion from the state’s constitution.

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