In Missouri, abortion is still legal though Republicans lawmakers have been trying to put a stop to that for years. They even passed an extremely restrictive bill in 2019 that remains tied up in the courts. But now a Catholic politician has taken a nuclear approach to an already fraught situation.
As it stands, Missouri is home to only one abortion clinic in St. Louis. Because of attempts to criminalize the procedure and sow doubt about what’s legal at all, that clinic only performs 10-20 abortions per month. But some women with the ability to do so have crossed the border into neighboring Illinois, where abortion rights are protected. Planned Parenthood opened a clinic right near the border, on the Illinois side, in 2019, creating a safe environment for 10,644 Missouri residents (and counting) who need the procedure.
An amendment just proposed by Missouri State Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman would put a stop to that entirely.
An unusual new provision, introduced by state Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman (R), would allow private citizens to sue anyone who helps a Missouri resident obtain an abortion out of state, using the novel legal strategy behind the restrictive law in Texas that since September has banned abortions in that state after six weeks of pregnancy.
Coleman has attached the measure as an amendment to several abortion-related bills that have made it through committee and are waiting to be heard on the floor of the House of Representatives.
First of all, it’s downright careless for the Washington Post to describe these harmful proposals as “unusual,” “novel,” or “creative,” as if they’re the result of good-faith acts of brainstorming. They’re not. They’re just different ways to punish women, and pretending otherwise is to deny the serious harm that would be inflicted by the proposed legislation.
But back to the point: This amendment, if it passes, would go after people for things that occur in another state. It’s like Coleman wants to follow women as they drive across the border, spy on their medical visits while they’re in Illinois, and punish them for “crimes” that exist only in her mind even though they’re perfectly legal in that state.
Olivia Cappello, the press officer for state media campaigns at Planned Parenthood, called the idea “wild” and “bonkers.” She called the proposal “the most extraordinary provision we have ever seen.”
If enacted, the measure almost certainly would face a swift legal challenge.
But illegality doesn’t seem to concern Republicans who are doing everything in their power to punish women who get pregnant against their will. When the Supreme Court gets the final say, and Democrats don’t have the numbers in Congress to pass legislation to protect bodily autonomy across the country, there’s no reason for Republicans to respect laws they don’t like.
One commenter at the Washington Post noted that Illinois may as well respond by passing a law allowing citizens to “sue anyone in Missouri who interferes with someone getting an abortion.” If this amendment passes, that could well be the next step.
For now, Coleman is very upset because she can’t throw the Forced Birth Party she was hoping to have:
While Coleman says she has been happy to see the sharp decline in abortions in Missouri, she says she can’t fully celebrate the success when so many women are obtaining the same procedure a few miles away.
“It’s just tragic,” she said of the number of Missouri residents who get abortions in Illinois. “It feels very sad and heavy.”
“It’s just tragic” that women are getting the medical help they need, said the Republican lawmaker.
Coleman has a history of anti-abortion activism, though. Just this past December, she filed a “heartbeat” bill to ban abortions before many women even know they’re pregnant. (Texas passed a similar law that’s currently under review by the Supreme Court.) Her bill would also encourage vigilantism, allowing private citizens to sue anyone assisting in an abortion.
She’s using her power to make sure people who need help suffer even more. She wants more, too. Coleman is currently running for State Senate.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that her Catholic faith inspires so much of her cruelty. The lawmaker, who also works as an attorney for the Thomas More Society (a conservative Catholic legal group), calls herself “pro-life,” but it’s clear she doesn’t give a damn about the lives of women who don’t want to give birth. She doesn’t care about immunocompromised people, either. Coleman supported anti-vaccination policies allowing COVID to spread even more.
In this case, she seems to think the best way to achieve electoral success is by putting yet another obstacle in front of women who realize the best way to take care of themselves is by getting the hell out of Missouri.