Missouri has proposed a new law that would be the first in the nation to counter efforts by abortion industry advocates to have women travel out of state to terminate their pregnancies. The measure was introduced as an amendment to abortion-related bills pending in the state legislature this week.
A growing number of states with Republican legislatures have been enacting abortion prohibitions modeled on the Texas Heartbeat Act enacted last year. Pro-abortion advocacy groups and even employers have become involved in helping women travel to other states to obtain abortions as a result.
The Missouri proposal would create a private right for any citizen to bring a lawsuit against any person or organization that helps a Missouri resident travel out of state for an abortion procedure.
The new law would open anyone who drives a woman to another state for an abortion or pays for the procedures up to legal liability. It would also apply to persons helping a woman obtain insurance coverage for an abortion or anyone who promotes out-of-state abortions in advertisements.
The measure would extend the enforcement procedures set out in the Texas law to abortions obtained in other states. Missouri already sees a significant number of women travel to neighboring states to obtain abortions.
Republican state Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman said that the new proposal addresses the “intentional evasion” of Missouri law. She added that because Illinois has chosen not to provide any protections for unborn babies, her state will act to do everything possible to ensure that Missouri children are protected from the Illinois approach to abortion.
Senior ACLU staff attorney Andrew Beck said the new law and a possible overruling of Roe v. Wade puts things “at a crisis point.” He added that the Missouri bill is “just the first step” to outlawing abortions everywhere.
A network of more than 90 abortion advocacy organizations has gone into effect across the country to promote access to abortions in more liberal states for those who would have to travel for the procedure.
Missouri enacted a “trigger law” in 2019 that will automatically take effect to ban abortions in the state if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade at any time in the future. The 1973 decision in Roe restricts states from regulating abortion before fetal viability, around the 23rd week of pregnancy.
The Supreme Court is currently considering its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. That case regards a law restricting abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy enacted by Mississippi. In Dobbs, the Supreme Court has been asked to overturn the ruling in Roe, allowing abortion regulation to be returned to the states individually. A final ruling in the case is expected to be issued by the end of the current term of the court in June.