The U.S. Supreme Court voted in a 5-4 majority to overturn Roe v. Wade late last month, immediately activating Missouri’s “trigger” law, which effectively outlawed all but emergency abortions.
In the minutes following the ruling on June 24, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt signed the law and Gov. Mike Parson issued a proclamation to activate the law, “Right to Life of the Unborn Act.”
"Nothing in the text, history or tradition of the United States Constitution gave unelected federal judges authority to regulate abortion. We are happy that the U.S. Supreme Court has corrected this error and returned power to the people and the states to make these decisions," Parson said at the time.
"With Roe v. Wade overturned and statutory triggers provided in House Bill 126, we are issuing this proclamation to restore our state authority to regulate abortion and protect life,” he continued.
MISSOURI’S ‘TRIGGER’ LAW
The Right to Life of the Unborn Child Act was included in House Bill 126 and contingent upon the U.S. Supreme Court overruling Roe v. Wade, in whole or in part. Initially passed in 2019, upon the Supreme Court’s decision, abortions are now illegal in Missouri, with one exception.
Abortions will only be permitted in the state in cases of medical emergency. There are no exceptions for rape or incest under the law.
State law defines the medical emergency criteria for pregnancy termination: It must be necessary to save the patient’s life or “for which a delay will create a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.”
Health care providers who violate the ban could be charged and prosecuted for a class B felony, which can result in five to 15 years in prison, and suspension or revocation of their medical license, if convicted.
However, people who receive an abortion cannot be prosecuted in violation of the law, according to the act.
BIRTH CONTROL STILL LEGAL
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said before and following the Supreme Court ruling in the case that overturns Roe v. Wade, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, that Missouri law does not ban the use of contraception methods, including Plan B or similar products.
Missouri law “criminalizes performing an abortion absent a medical emergency, but this does not include pregnancy preventive measures,” the department said in a news release.
Officials with the agency also said they are reviewing regulations related to abortion facilities to ensure the rules are in line with state law, as such facilities and providers come under their purview.
Locally, Howell County Health Department Administrator Chris Gilliam said his department has not been impacted by the recent Supreme Court ruling.
“It has always been a clear directive from the Department’s Board of Directors that the Howell County Health Department will not provide or support any pregnancy-ending procedures or services in any way,” Gilliam told the Daily Quill.
Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, Schmitt issued a formal opinion to enact Missouri’s trigger law, making Missouri one of the first states to outlaw nearly all abortions.
“With this attorney general opinion, my Office has effectively ended abortion in Missouri, becoming the first state in the country to do so following the Court’s ruling,” Schmitt write.
Parson in a news release said his administration is coordinating with U.S. Attorney General Schmitt to resolve any litigation preventing implementation of the 2019 law.
Meanwhile, Missouri’s remaining abortion clinic Planned Parenthood in St. Louis ceased all abortions on June 24, the day of the ruling.
Planned Parenthood’s eight health centers across the St. Louis area and Southwest Missouri still provide all forms of birth control, including emergency contraceptives and IUDs, said Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region Chief Medical Officer Dr. Colleen McNicholas.
“If you need pills, patches, rings, IUDs or any form of birth control, we are here for you. Birth control is available and legal in the state of Missouri,” McNicholas said.
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