News Abortion

Missouri Lawmakers Introduce Bills to Increase Subsidies, Enshrine Protections for CPCs

Teddy Wilson

Among the bills recently introduced are HB 1132 and SB 638, which would raise the cap on total tax credits for contributions to all CPCs in the state from $2 million to $2.5 million.

Lawmakers in Missouri have introduced legislation that would increase taxpayer subsidies and enshrine protections from state or local regulations for crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs).

State Rep. Kevin Engler (R-Farmington)—who has consistently supported anti-choice legislation, including bills that would place a ban on sex-selective abortions and restrictions on RU-486has filed HB 1132, which would raise the cap on total tax credits for contributions to all CPCs in the state from $2 million to $2.5 million. An identical bill, SB 638, was filed by state Sen. Gary Romine (R-Farmington). Under current law, a Missouri resident may claim up to half of their contribution to a CPC—no more than $50,000—on their income tax form. According to the Missouri Department of Social Services,. 

Engler told the Park Hill Daily Journal that because the number of CPCs in Missouri continues to increase—there are now 56 registered CPCs in the state that qualify for the tax credit—the current cap on tax-deductible donations makes it difficult for the organizations to fundraise. “Unless the cap is increased, some donors will no longer be able to acquire tax credits, which will in turn hurt the fundraising efforts of Missouri’s pregnancy resource centers,” said Engler. “By providing more credits, we are ensuring these women can access the services they need.”

Kim Nash, executive director of the Parkland Pregnancy Resource Center in Park Hills, told the Daily Journal that the increased tax credit would allow donors to give more, and would “definitely increases donations which, in turn, affects how many families and individuals we can help in the Parkland area.” Parkland is an affiliated CPC of the Alliance for Life Missouri, an alliance of anti-choice “Christ-centered” ministries.

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Additional bills introduced by state Rep. Chuck Gatschenberger (R-Lake St. Louis) and state Sen. Wayne Wallingford (R-Cape Girardeau) would provide protections for CPCs from government regulation. HB 1103 and SB 658 would prevent counties or municipalities from adopting any ordinances or other policies that regulate CPCs. Gatschenberger, who is a member of Missouri Right to Life, sponsored identical legislation in both the 2013 and 2012 legislative sessions.

Crisis pregnancy centers have come under increased scrutiny over the last several years, as investigations have revealed that centers across the country have provided inaccurate information and neglected to follow proper medical protocols. This has led to states and cities across the country considering laws and ordinances that would regulate the clinics.

A study by NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri found that CPCs in the state rarely, if ever, employ medical professionals, and many use “coercive and shaming tactics,” provide “biased counseling and blatantly false health information,” and “aggressively push Christian beliefs.”

Pamela Sumners, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, told Rewire that the report highlights the need for regulating CPCs. “It in no way infringes anyone’s right to say that if they’re holding themselves out as a medical or counseling facility, to simply say that they need to provide medically and scientifically accurate information,” she said.

Paula Gianino, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, told Rewire that CPCs are driven by a particular religious or political viewpoint and do not give full factual information about pregnancy. “In my view, taxpayer dollars should not be funding these organizations,” said Gianino. “Women have no protections that their staff are trained, licensed, and they are under no type of regulatory or licensing requirement.”

Commentary Abortion

Standing Under Sprinklers, Missouri Activists Turn Tables on Anti-Choice Community

Pamela Merritt

Missouri legislators protect and fund crisis pregnancy centers, while ignoring how their constituents are affected by violence and health-care disparities. A new campaign is taking to the streets to refocus their attention.

When I found out in 2015 that anti-choice politicians in Missouri had formed the Senate Interim Committee on the Sanctity of Life, I was outraged that they planned to use valuable time and money to bully Planned Parenthood with yet another baseless investigation.

My second thought was that I wished someone would form a committee to investigate the real issues that threaten the lives of Missourians every day.

Erin Matson and I co-founded Reproaction because we believe in the power of direct action; that the current state of abortion access is a manmade humanitarian crisis; and that people must have the right to decide whether to parent and to live in communities free of violence and oppression.

Those core values inspired us to launch the Show-Me Accountability Campaign in Missouri on June 29. Through the campaign we are leading direct actions to hold members of the Senate Interim Committee on the Sanctity of Life accountable, and demanding Missouri politicians work on the real challenges our communities and neighbors face, such as gun violence and Black infant mortality.

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Missourians deserve access to health care and safe communities, but that’s not the focus of anti-choice legislators. Instead, our lawmakers choose to persecute abortion providers and dish out tax credits to sham crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs).

Missourians have had enough. That’s what brought local progressive activists together, led by Reproaction Missouri organizer Zoe Krause, to launch Show-Me Accountability. We gathered on the sidewalk in front of Thrive, one of at least 65 CPCs anti-choice lawmakers champion despite the fact that the centers have a history of lying to patients seeking reproductive health care. Missouri lawmakers have even pushed legislation to guarantee CPCs aren’t subject to regulation or oversight. We chose Thrive as the location of our launch to illustrate the contrast between what Missouri politicians fund, prioritize, and protect, versus what Missourians actually need them to focus on.

Someone turned the sprinklers on at Thrive just as activists started showing up, providing a nonstop shower that drenched people walking or standing on much of the sidewalk in front of the building. It was an old-school disruption move that made it clear they knew we were coming and weren’t happy about it. We shifted down the sidewalk and started to get in formation.

Several interns from Thrive came outside and tried to physically disrupt our work by repeatedly moving between activists and attempting to surround us. But when we engaged them in conversation, they didn’t appear to know much about the services Thrive provides or that CPCs get tax credits in Missouri. As our speakers began their remarks, Thrive counselors in bright orange vests held signs and guarded the walkway up to the building. I’m familiar with the vests and signs because they are usually seen stationed in front of Missouri’s only abortion provider a few blocks away.

The speakers were amazing, their topics a damning indictment of the issues that wither on the vine in Jefferson City while politicians compete for the attention of anti-abortion lobbyists. Kirstin Palovick, organizer for the grassroots LGBT equality organization PROMO, explained why it hurts our state that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in Missouri can be fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes, and denied access to public accommodations and services. Cicely Paine, fellowship manager at CoreAlign and board chair for Community Birth and Wellness, shared her experience as a sex educator in Missouri, where access to comprehensive sex education is not a right enjoyed by all. Mustafa Abdullah, lead organizer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, passionately detailed the real-world consequences of racial disparities in policing and why police violence is a reproductive justice issue.

I was the final speaker and used my time to talk about why the Black infant mortality rate is a public health crisis worthy of attention and urgency. We ended with chants and a few dances through the shower provided by Thrive’s sprinkler system.

The timing for our campaign launch couldn’t have been better. Shortly after the action at Thrive, the chair of the Senate Interim Committee on the Sanctity of Life announced that there would be a press conference in Jefferson City to discuss a report detailing the results of their “work.” So, Zoe and I took a road trip to the Missouri capitol to witness firsthand what the committee had to say and ask some questions.

At around 1 p.m., several anti-choice members of the committee, including chair Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia), gathered in the fourth floor mezzanine in the capitol. Neither Sen. Jill Schupp (D-Creve Coeur) nor Sen. Maria Chappelle Nadal (D-St. Louis), the only pro-choice members of the committee, were in attendance. Neither contributed to the report.

As expected, the yearlong investigation found no evidence that tissue has been illegally sold. Sen. Schaefer acknowledged that the report was not an official report of the committee. Instead, the senators used the press conference to fuss about the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt decision and voice their frustration over not having uncovered much of anything.

“What is clear is there are many things that are unclear,” Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Glendale) said during the press conference.

On that one point, I agree.

It remains unclear how much this investigation cost Missourians. We deserve a proper accounting for just how much we invested in this farce. But when Reproaction’s Zoe Krause asked that question during the press conference, the senators refused to answer.

It remains unclear why a committee formed under the title “Sanctity of Life” failed to investigate why Missourians are at risk of being killed by gun-wielding toddlers, why gun deaths surpass deaths resulting from car accidents, or why Black women are three times more likely to have an infant die before the child’s first birthday.

What is clear is that the committee’s press conference was partisan because the committee formed as a platform for anti-choice propaganda. It is clear that the anti-abortion videos used as the excuse for forming the committee have been thoroughly debunked.

Sadly, it is more than clear that some members of the committee think they can get away with wasting the people’s time trying to score political points with anti-choice groups.

We drove away from the capitol more committed than ever to the Show-Me Accountability Campaign. Missourians deserve legislators who will prioritize real-world issues, and we will demand accountability from those who fail to do so. Media coverage of our launch has already sparked long-overdue discussions about the damaging consequences of our state legislature’s misplaced priorities.

That’s the kind of fertile soil accountability can grow in, and we intend to see it grow in Missouri. We are in this for dignity, justice, and liberation. And we’re just getting started.

News Abortion

Missouri Republicans Back ‘Personhood’ Measure, Compare Abortion to Slavery

Michelle D. Anderson

The proposed clauses would add fetuses to the list of Missouri residents who have a "natural right to life" and abolish a pregnant person's right to abortion care.

A proposed amendment aimed at ending legal abortion in Missouri through a so-called personhood law dominated a Tuesday hearing held by the state’s House Committee on Children and Family.

The amendment, called House Joint Resolution (HJR) 98 and sponsored by Rep. Mike Moon (R-Ash Grove), would overturn the state’s abortion laws if placed on the state ballot and supported by voters in November. Moon’s proposal requires approval by the state senate and the house, but not Gov. Jay Nixon (D), who has vetoed anti-choice measures passed by Missouri Republicans.

The state constitution would allow the measure to appear on a ballot if the GOP-dominated legislature accepts the amendment.

The proposed clauses would add fetuses to the list of Missouri residents who have a “natural right to life” and abolish a pregnant person’s right to abortion care.

The Republican amendment declares that people would retain the right through their elected state officials to “amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion, including circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or if necessary to save the life of the mother.”

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HJR 98 had 21 co-sponsors as of Tuesday, all of whom are Republicans.

Moon, who claimed the amendment would protect the health of pregnant people, played a video clip of a fetus during the hearing in an attempt to make his case for the anti-choice measure.

One of the bill’s supporters, Rep. Rick Brattin (R- Harrisonville), compared abortion care to the enslavement of Black people.

Moon gained national attention in December when he proposed the similar All Lives Matter Act, or HB 1794, in an attempt to end legal abortion in Missouri. The proposed anti-choice law sought to define a fertilized egg as “a person” and life as beginning at conception.

That proposal has drawn criticism from Black Lives Matter activists and supporters who noted that the All Lives Matter Act co-opted the movement’s language, which was created to combat the racism and dehumanization of Black people in light of police brutality cases across the country.

Laura Swinford, executive director of Progressive Missouri, tweeted that declaring an embryo a full legal person could ban common forms of birth control like the pill, intrauterine devices, and emergency contraception.

All of those methods of birth control can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.

“As a former embryo myself, I would like protection for all embryos,” Moon said, according to the Columbia Missourian.

Officials from NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri have criticized the proposed amendment and charged that the “personhood” measure is unconstitutional.

NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri noted that voters in Oklahoma, North Dakota, Mississippi, and Colorado have all defeated so-called personhood measures. Colorado voters have rejected “personhood” in three elections, prompting some anti-choice activists to call for a localized approach to ending abortion rights.

The house committee on Tuesday held a brief hearing on HB 1953, but only two testimonies were allowed for the proposal.

The proposal, which seeks to restrict fetal tissue donations, is also among a flurry of anti-choice measures proposed by the Republican-dominated Missouri legislature.

There’s no scheduled follow-up hearings on the anti-choice House Joint Resolution, reports the Columbia Missourian.