JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri — The Missouri Catholic Conference has urged Catholics throughout Missouri to contact their state lawmakers and Gov. Eric Greitens “for working together to pass some of the most significant pro-life legislation in a generation.”
Greitens signed the measure July 26, one day after the state Senate passed it in a 22-9 vote. The state House had earlier OK’d the bill.
The new law, which takes effect Oct. 23, features numerous pro-life provisions, including:
— Requiring annual, on-site and unannounced inspections of abortion clinics and mandating clinics have emergency measures in place for botched abortions.
— Ensuring that women hear medical information from a doctor before deciding whether to obtain an abortion.
— Largely overturning the St. Louis “abortion sanctuary” ordinance and prohibiting other municipalities from passing similar ordinances.
In addition, the new law will allow the Missouri attorney general to enforce the state’s abortion laws when local prosecutors fail to do so.
“This is the strongest pro-life law passed in many decades,” said Mike Hoey, executive director of the Missouri Catholic Conference. “We are very grateful for the work of both Gov. Greitens and the Missouri General Assembly.”
The Catholic conference, which is the public policy agency for the state’s four Catholic dioceses, worked with Missouri Right to Life, Campaign Life Missouri and others to push for passage of the bill.
Greitens called lawmakers into special session in June to address the St. Louis ordinance and enact stronger rules for abortion providers in the state.
Enacted in February, the city’s ordinance provided a protected-class status to any woman choosing to have an abortion and those supporting her in that action — while it also discriminated against those promoting pro-life alternatives, according to a lawsuit filed against the city of St. Louis over the statute.
The ordinance also forced private businesses to include abortion coverage in their employee health plans even if company owners had sincere objections to abortion.
The Archdiocese of St. Louis and other pro-life entities brought the suit, saying the ordinance violated their religious freedom because it granted “protected status” to abortion advocates.
The governor’s signature on S.B. 5 was never in doubt, but passage by the Missouri Senate was, according to the Missouri Catholic Conference.
The Senate had passed an earlier version of S.B. 5 June 15 that largely focused on overturning the St. Louis “abortion sanctuary” ordinance. The Missouri House kept the rollback on the “abortion sanctuary” provision in S.B. 5 and added many other pro-life provisions.
When the Senate took up the Houses’ amended version, opponents waged a two-day filibuster before Republican Sen. Andrew Koenig, the bill’s Senate sponsor, made a motion to end debate and proceed to a vote on the bill, which then passed.
When he signed the bill, Greitens said: “Today is a great victory for pregnancy care centers that help women and children all over the state. I’m proud that many of Missouri’s lawmakers stood strong to protect the lives of the innocent unborn and women’s health.”
Kehoe, Senate majority floor leader and a member of Cathedral of St. Joseph Parish in Jefferson City, said he appreciates the governor’s leadership on this issue and thanked his colleagues in the House and Senate “for their work on this bill.”
“I was pleased to vote for S.B. 5 to protect women and to promote a culture of life in Missouri,” he said.
Mike and Kathy Forck, leaders for the Team PLAY pro-life coalition and the Central Missouri 40 Days for Life campaign, called S.B. 5 “one of the most life-affirming bills ever.”
Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, also praised Missouri lawmakers for passing the pro-life legislation, saying it “draws a line between those who want to protect women and those who want to protect the abortion industry.”
Hoey said, “Missouri is once again one of our nation’s strongest pro-life leaders.”
Contributing to this story was Jay Nies, editor of The Catholic Missourian, newspaper of the Diocese of Jefferson City.