Missouri AG plans to sue KC over measure giving travel money for abortion across state lines

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich says a territorial law banning abortion is in effect.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich says a territorial law banning abortion is in effect.(Arizona's Family)
Published: Jul. 1, 2022 at 11:32 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 1, 2022 at 11:34 AM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - The Missouri attorney general on Friday said any city that uses “hard earned tax dollars on abortions” can expect a lawsuit from the state, and he appeared to directly reference a recent Kansas City measure that passed the City Council on Thursday.

Kansas City Councilmembers on Thursday approved an resolution that could give a $300 stipend to city employees seeking to get an abortion, in what city leaders said is meant to help employees travel across state lines into Kansas. The nearest medical office conducting abortion procedures is in Overland Park.

Thursday’s resolution directed the city manager to begin discussions and negotiations with the city’s health care providers to achieve the travel stipend goal.

On Friday, Missouri AG Eric Schmitt sent out a pair of tweets that appear to directly criticize the Kansas City resolution and the City of St. Louis.

“Working families are struggling to pay for gas & food. They fork over their hard earned money in taxes & now St Louis & KC “leaders” want to spend those hard earned tax dollars on abortions. No way. Any attempt to do so by cities or counties in Missouri will be met with a lawsuit,” Schmitt said over Twitter. “RSMo. 188.205—It shall be unlawful for any public funds to be expended for the purpose of performing or assisting an abortion, not necessary to save the life of the mother, or for the purpose of encouraging or counseling a woman to have an abortion not necessary to save her life.”

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas fired back at Schmitt shortly afterward in a press released titled, “Kansas City Mayor Statement on Nonsensical Threats from the Missouri Attorney General.”

“Using hard-earned taxpayer dollars, whether it be ARPA funds or other forms of revenue, to fund nonsensical threats and meritless lawsuits violates the state attorney general’s ethical obligations as a Missouri attorney,” Lucas’ statement said. “We will continue to proudly and unabashedly stand up for the freedom of Missouri women and Missouri families to make private healthcare decisions. Kansas City’s lawful resolutions are but one step in doing so. We wish the state attorney general well in his ongoing effort to become the most popular Eric in the campaign for U.S. Senate.”

The city resolution was proposed after Missouri wrote into state law additional abortion restrictions following the U.S. Supreme Court reversal of Roe vs. Wade. The 1973 decision had established a federal right to an abortion. Last Friday’s Supreme Court ruling reverses that, and kicks the decision down to individual states to determine how restrictive or relaxed their abortion policies should be. Several states, including Missouri, had “trigger laws” in effect to severely restrict or ban abortion in the case of a Roe vs. Wade reversal.

Missouri makes an abortion exception for the health of the mother, but otherwise bans abortion procedures. Last Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling did not change any laws or policies in Kansas, as the Kansas Supreme Court decided two years ago that a right to an abortion is covered by its state constitution. That could change in August when Kansans get the option to vote on a proposed constitutional amendment nullifying the state Supreme Court’s decision. That could open the door for the state legislature to pass abortion restrictions or an abortion ban.

Many employers and officials are expecting Missourians to seek abortions in surrounding states with less restrictive abortion policies, such as Kansas and Illinois, with a growing number of employers pledging to pay for employees’ travel expenses to get abortions in these surrounding states.

That combination of circumstances led the Kansas City Council to approve its ordinance proposal Thursday.

A route with the RideKC Zero Fare Buses travels to the Planned Parenthood in Overland Park for free, but the ride is nearly two hours. Once pregnant women reach the facility, the abortion process can take up to 4 hours. Women go through patient education and an ultrasound, and then there’s a mandatory 30-minute waiting period before the procedure can be performed.

The full Kansas City resolution is as follows:

RESOLUTION NO. 220575

RESOLUTION - Declaring reproductive rights are fundamental human rights and criminalizing access to reproductive rights is a form of discrimination against women, girls and others who can become pregnant.

WHEREAS, reproductive rights are basic healthcare needs for millions of women, girls and others who can become pregnant; and

WHEREAS, individuals exercising their reproductive rights must be afforded privacy, dignity, respect and support, and should be able to make their own medical decisions without undue interference by outside parties; and

WHEREAS, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the leading medical organization dedicated to the health of individuals in need of gynecologic and obstetric care, supports the availability of high-quality reproductive health services for all people; and

WHEREAS, research provides evidence that access to reproductive health resources makes it possible for women, birth givers and their families to have healthy and economically productive lives; and

WHEREAS, those who are already marginalized, including women and girls on low income, refugees and migrants, adolescents, members of the LGBTQ+ community and women of color and Indigenous women, are disproportionately affected by the criminalization or restriction of reproductive rights and have no means to seek safe and legal services or access private care; and

WHEREAS, restricting or criminalizing reproductive rights is a violation of human rights, including the rights to privacy and bodily autonomy; and

WHEREAS, the committee for the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) has consistently stated that restrictive reproductive rights constitute discrimination against women and people who can become pregnant; and

WHEREAS, this resolution is supported by and in coordination with the Gender Equity Task Force of the Kansas City Human Rights Commission; NOW, THEREFORE,

BE IT RESOLVED BY THE COUNCIL OF KANSAS CITY:

That reproductive rights are fundamental human rights and criminalizing access to reproductive rights is a form of discrimination against women, girls and others who can become pregnant.

Mayor Quinton Lucas’ full statement is as follows:

“Using hard-earned taxpayer dollars, whether it be ARPA funds or other forms of revenue, to fund nonsensical threats and meritless lawsuits violates the state attorney general’s ethical obligations as a Missouri attorney.

“We will continue to proudly and unabashedly stand up for the freedom of Missouri women and Missouri families to make private healthcare decisions. Kansas City’s lawful resolutions are but one step in doing so.

“We wish the state attorney general well in his ongoing effort to become the most popular Eric in the campaign for U.S. Senate.”

Missouri Supreme Court Rule 4-3.1, Sentence 1, states, “A lawyer shall not bring or defend a proceeding, or assert or controvert an issue therein, unless there is a basis in law and fact for doing so that is not frivolous, which includes a good faith argument for an extension, modification, or reversal of existing law.”

Political candidates like the state attorney general have announced efforts to use taxpayer dollars to fund threats and potentially wasteful litigation.

Planned Parenthood released the following statement to KCTV5 just before the resolution was approved:

“Should this pass, the City of Kansas City is taking an important step as a local government in recognizing their employees have the right to make their own private health care decisions. By assisting employees during this time, the city is sending a clear message that although this care should be available close to home, covering travel will help ease burdens caused by these harmful total bans. Planned Parenthood Great Plains is doing everything we can to serve our communities in Missouri and Kansas during this difficult time and help patients get the care they need and deserve.”

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