One year ago, state Sen. Andrew Koenig made his extremist anti-abortion agenda crystal clear by authoring one of the most heinous bans on abortion in the nation. HB 126, passed in May 2019 and currently partially blocked by a federal judge, criminalizes abortion before most people even know they are pregnant, with no exceptions for survivors of rape or incest. The bill would jail doctors for five to 15 years for simply providing health care, and ultimately gut Roe v. Wade.
HB 126 was merciless by design — just like Koenig intended. Zero respect for our basic human rights. Zero consideration for the dignity of pregnant people to make the best decisions for themselves. Zero compassion for survivors.
Let’s be clear: Abortion is common and normal; one in four birthing people will have an abortion in their lifetime. Any reason to have an abortion is a valid reason — one that should be made by a pregnant person and the people they love and trust. And any ban on abortion is competely out-of-touch with the values of 77 percent of Americans who believe abortion should be legal and the decision of if, when, and how to raise a family is deeply personal.
Koenig’s extremist agenda isn’t only unpopular with the vast majority of Americans, it’s unpopular with Republican voters — and he knows it. In 2020, Koenig put his name on legislation addressing the backlog of 6,157 untested rape kits in Missouri, a crisis that demands attention. That he would turn around and pretend to bring closure to the very individuals he would force to carry a pregnancy that was the product of rape to term is an insult to survivors. This bill was not about getting justice for survivors, but instead a gross attempt to use others’ struggle for his own political gain, a talking point that he now touts on his campaign literature.
It’s not lost on St. Louis County voters that Koenig is the same so-called “pro-life” Republican who is hellbent on hurting Missourians and their families. It’s hard to call yourself “pro-life” when you work to imprison people for accessing abortion, deny affordable health care to millions of low-income people, block access to birth control, target LGBTQ+ youth in schools, and watch idle as maternal and infant mortality rates skyrocket in your own state — especially among Black birthing people.
But Koenig is not alone. For years, anti-abortion politicians like Republican incumbent U.S. Congresswoman Ann Wagner has claimed to work for South County voters, while throwing their health and wellbeing under the bus. Wagner and Koenig’s track records are one in the same: repeatedly voting to dismantle access to basic reproductive health care, target patients of Planned Parenthood, and gut protections for survivors. The list goes on.
If the last four years have taught South County voters anything it’s that these insidious attacks on our reproductive freedom won’t end — not until we send Koenig and Wagner packing this November.
Fortunately, we have another option: state Rep. Deb Lavender has mounted a real challenge to Koenig, and polling shows state Sen. Jill Schupp closing in on Wagner. These progressive leaders have always put Missourians and their families first — and they have the track record to prove it. Lavender and Schupp empower Missourians to make the best decisions for themselves and their families — including legal abortion — by fighting to protect access to evidence-based information and reproductive health care. They’ve championed legislation that centers justice for survivors of sexual violence and assault and provides families with basic health care resources like Medicaid and paid family leave. Voters can trust Lavender and Schupp to fight for all of us, no matter what. So, when looking at our options this election year, there is a clear choice for South County voters: Vote for Lavender for State Senate and Schupp for Congress.
Mallory Schwarz is the NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri executive director.