By Alison Dreith, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri
Missouri has been making national headlines over the last week, and not the kind we should be proud of. This all started when Gov. Eric Greitens took to Facebook to call for an “emergency” special session of the state legislature. The point, as we soon found out, was not to tackle child hunger or improve local schools. The reason for the extraordinary convening of our state government was to advance Gov. Greitens’ politically motivated agenda to restrict a woman’s access to abortion and allow her to be discriminated against for her personal medical decisions. If this sounds over the top, wait until you hear how much this emergency meeting costing taxpayers: $20,000 a day, a number that grows every minute.
The side-show quality of this emergency session was further driven home by a weird publicity stunt by a GOP lawmaker in which he beheaded a chicken while announcing his bill to outlaw abortion. While nobody cares what Rep. Moon does with livestock in the privacy of his own home, his and the GOP’s obsession with banning abortion has made our state the laughing stock of the entire nation.
The truth is that Missouri families face a number of serious issues. 300,000 people across the state go without medical coverage because the governor is too proud to accept federal support to cover them. We’re the second hungriest state in the nation and childhood hunger rates are on the rise. Our bridges and roads are crumbling and the Bootheel’s infant and maternal mortality rate is worse than that of Libya.
But Gov. Greitens and his Republican allies had another agenda to push. In a state that already has some of the most draconian abortion restrictions in the country, they want to make it even harder on Missouri women to access basic reproductive healthcare.
Relying on a hearty dose of Big Government, the GOP kicked off their expensive special session with an effort to invalidate an ordinance passed just this year by local leaders in St. Louis. That law, which NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri was proud to partner on, ensures that bosses and landlords can’t discriminate against women and families because of their reproductive healthcare decisions.
Equally as concerning, the governor has tried to replace sound medical advice with his own partisan ideology. Gov. Greitens and the GOP seek to do this by imposing medically unnecessary restrictions on the only clinic in our state that makes abortion care available to Missourians. When a federal judge called the first round of restrictions they tried to impose unconstitutional, Gov. Greitens and his Republican allies simply came up with different ones. These restrictions have nothing to do with improving healthcare and everything to do with controlling and punishing women.
Last but not least, Gov. Greitens and the GOP—avowed fiscal conservatives—sought to use taxpayer money to fund anti-abortion groups that operate throughout the state. My organization, NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, has investigated the deceptive and misleading tactics used by many of these groups throughout the state, which gained notoriety for shaming women about their reproductive health decisions and even tricking them out of getting the healthcare they need.
Missourians deserve to be reading headlines about leaders who are pushing bold plans to lift up women and families in our state. Instead, we are forced to read about how Republicans leaders are again using the machinery of the state to advance their own personal ideologies. We need leaders who understand that women prosper, families prosper, and our whole state prospers when we protect and expand access to basic reproductive healthcare.
With each passing day of this wasteful emergency session, NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri members will fight back against the GOP’s out-of- touch agenda and Gov. Greiten’s career-driven attempt to gain the national spotlight. Missourians will never forget the politicians that put families on the chopping block.