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Missouri GOP Could Jam Through Anti-Choice Laws in Special Session (Updated)

Teddy Wilson

Gov. Eric Greitens (R) wants GOP lawmakers to push through legislation that would prevent cities and municipalities from passing reproductive rights protections.

UPDATE, June 8, 1:46 p.m.: Gov. Eric Greitens (R) on Wednesday called a special session of the state legislature and will direct lawmakers to consider legislation targeting so-called abortion sanctuary cities, along with medically unnecessary restrictions on clinics that provide abortion care. The special session is set to convene Monday.

Missouri lawmakers recently finished a special legislative session after passing an anti-union bill preventing local governments from requiring taxpayer-funded construction projects be awarded only to companies that pay union-level wages.

Gov. Eric Greitens (R) on Tuesday signed the bill targeting local wage protections. The governor has hinted that he plans to call lawmakers back to Jefferson City to once again take aim at local ordinances.

Greitens will reportedly call a second special legislative session and direct lawmakers to consider anti-choice proposals, including a bill that would prevent cities and municipalities from passing reproductive rights protections. 

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The City of St. Louis in February passed an ordinance banning landlords and employers from discriminating against people based on their reproductive health choices.

A group of businesses and religiously affiliated organizations have filed a lawsuit in response to the ordinance, and a bill was introduced during the regular legislative session that would broadly prohibit cities and municipalities from passing similar ordinances.

Legislation to create more regulations of abortion clinics could also be on the agenda.

Sen. Robert Onder (R-Lake Saint Louis), who sponsored an omnibus anti-choice bill during the regular session, has reportedly lobbied the governor’s staff to call a special session to pass legislation replacing medically unnecessary clinic regulations blocked by a federal court.

The move is viewed by pro-choice advocates as a cynical political maneuver by the governor at the expense of the state’s taxpayers.

Alison Dreith, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, told Rewire in an email that Greitens should focus on improving the lives of Missourians instead of using the legislature for political purposes.

“With the governor signing Right to Work and overturning St. Louis’ minimum wage ordinance, Greitens shows he does not care about the economic security of Missouri families,” Dreith said. “He should stop putting his own political ambitions before taxpayers in the state.”

“Missouri families want our leaders to focus on creating jobs and improving education, not wasting time and money on an ideological fight over abortion,” Dreith said. “[Greitens] and his GOP colleagues are showing that they just don’t share the priorities of hard working Missouri families.”

Greitens told the Associated Press that he was “leaving every option on the table,” and that several topics may be considered during a possible special session.

The Republican leadership has yet to weigh in on whether the governor should call a second special session. House Speaker Todd Richardson and Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard declined to comment on the possibility of a special session, reported the Missouri Times.

Greitens and Richardson did not respond to request for comment.

State Sen. Jill Schupp (D-Creve Coeur) told Rewire that lawmakers are in a state of “limbo and waiting,” adding that the “governor himself has created a problem” due to his inability to work with legislators.

“When he called the first special session, there was no reason to limit that call to the issue that he called us for,” Schupp said. “If it was important to get something done on abortion, he could have brought us back for more than one issue.”

More than 30 anti-choice bills were introduced during the regular legislative session, but the GOP-dominated legislature did not send a single bill to the governor’s desk.

“The fact that he is spreading this out over a longer period of time to give himself increasing news cycles, at the expense of legislators’ time back in their districts and at the expense of taxpayers—this looks very political,” Schupp said.

The first special session came with a $66,000 price tag, according to the AP. To cover lawmakers’ daily expense allowances, mileage reimbursements, and staffing, the Missouri State House spent more than $47,000, and the state senate spent almost $19,000.

“Each full week that lawmakers are in special session costs about $28,000 in the Senate and between $50,000 and $100,000 in the House, depending on how many lawmakers are there each day. On top of the $456 million budget gap Missouri is currently in, calling this special session is fiscally irresponsible,” Dreith said.

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