People march from Park Central Square to the Federal Courthouse Friday evening to protest. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

On Friday, minutes after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, Missouri’s attorney general issued an opinion that “triggers” a state law banning abortion.

“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,” Attorney General Eric Schmitt said in a press release.

The law specifies that abortion procedures may be outlawed if the U.S. Supreme Court overrules Roe v. Wade, either in full or in part, “restoring or granting to the state of Missouri the authority to regulate abortion to the extent set forth in this section, and that as a result, it is reasonably probable that this section would be upheld by the court as constitutional.”

The state law specifies “no abortion shall be performed or induced upon a woman, except in cases of medical emergency.”

What exactly is the new law?

Abortion is defined by state law as “the intentional destruction of life of an embryo or fetus in his or her mother’s womb or the intentional termination of pregnancy of a mother with an intention other than to increase the probability of a live birth or to remove a dead or dying unborn child.”

Under this Missouri law, any person who “knowingly performs or induces” an abortion of an unborn child commits a class B felony, and is also subject to have their professional medical license(s) suspended or revoked. The law specifies that a woman shall not be prosecuted for having an abortion.

A class B felony in Missouri is punishable by a prison sentence of 5-15 years.

Reactions to the trigger law

People gather outside the U.S. Courthouse Friday evening to protest the June 24, 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe V. Wade. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

There are no abortion providers doing surgical abortions in Springfield. The only clinic in Missouri where surgical abortions were being done prior to the U.S. Supreme Court decision is in St. Louis. The clinic offers medicated abortion and surgical abortion procedures for women who are up to 21.6 weeks pregnant.

Cassi Pearce, a midwife apprentice from Springfield, said she was heartbroken and stunned by the news.

“This is not just banning elective abortions,” Pearce said. “This is going to permeate aspects of pregnancy care and birth control, but it’s also a ruling that focuses on the right to health care privacy. And abortion was just the catalyst to the need for privacy.

“I’m just angry that our country is so blind to the implications of getting rid of our rights to privacy in general,” she continued. “This is a huge blow to that.”

People gather outside the U.S. Courthouse Friday evening to protest the June 24, 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe V. Wade. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

Pearce said the ruling means more people will be at risk of dying because they try to give themselves an abortion.

“In our country, the maternal and infant mortality rate is already so astronomically high, that this is only going to add to it,” Pearce said. “More moms are going to die and there’s nothing that shows anyone cares about that.”

“Today is the worst-case scenario for 36 million people of reproductive age who live in 26 states, including Missouri, where abortion is now poised to be banned,” said Yamelsie Rodriguez, an executive at Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, in a statement. “Everything that led to the overturning of Roe should be a stain on our history from which we must learn and do better.”

Gov. Mike Parson issued a proclamation on June 24.

“Nothing in the text, history, or tradition of the United States Constitution gave un-elected federal judges authority to regulate abortion,” Parson said. “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 his office is coordinating with Schmitt’s office to “quickly resolve any litigation against HB 126 before the courts that is currently preventing implementation of the law.”

Pro-life groups react

The Vitae Foundation is a national pro-life organization headquartered in Jefferson City. The foundation funds research into the psychological aspects of pregnancy termination, and is dedicated to “helping (women) find life-affirming alternatives when faced with an unplanned pregnancy,” according to its website.

Regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision on Roe vs. Wade, Vitae Foundation President Debbie Stokes said unplanned pregnancies will continue to occur, and women will continue to seek out different options for health care. Vitae’s “ProWomanApproach” involves reaching women with information on alternatives to abortion before they seek out abortion treatments.

“No matter the legality of abortion, many women need the support of pregnancy centers,” Stokes said. “Our ProWomanApproach embodies love and respect for those mothers and their children. Out of that respect, we want women to be fully informed of all the options and resources at their disposal before they make their final decision.”

In Springfield, the Pregnancy Care Center is a clinic that provides help to “help young women and men throughout Southwest Missouri who are facing an unplanned pregnancy.” According to its website, it is affiliated with pro-life organization National Institute of Family and Live Advocates, a nonprofit that provides legal assistance and training for more than 1,600 pregnancy centers across the United States with an anti-abortion approach.

“The infamous Roe v. Wade has seen its last days,” NIFLA Vice President of Legal Affairs Anne O’Connor said. “The lie that abortion helps women is being dismantled. Women do not need abortion to be equal with men. Women can thrive at school, work and anywhere in society, and still promote the idea that equality begins in the womb.”

Reporter Jackie Rehwald contributed to this report.

Rance Burger

Rance Burger covers local government for the Daily Citizen. His goal is to help people know more about what projects their government is involved in, and how their tax dollars are being spent. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia with 15 years experience in journalism. Reach him at rburger@sgfcitizen.org or by calling 417-837-3669. Twitter: @RanceBurger More by Rance Burger