ST. LOUIS — Standing among placards celebrating life and others with graphic images of dead fetuses, activists convened downtown Friday to champion a claim that Missouri is now an abortion-free state — a claim that Planned Parenthood in St. Louis refutes.
The Abortion-Free Missouri Rally, timed to the anniversary of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion, drew about 100 bundled-up people to the sidewalk across the street from the Old Courthouse. The event came together after several conservative websites reported that abortion procedures are no longer being done in Missouri.
A spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood in St. Louis, the only abortion provider in the state, said Friday that while the St. Louis clinic has provided no surgical abortions since November, it still offers them and has patients scheduled for the procedure later this month. The clinic blamed a dramatic drop in abortions last year on Missouri’s 72-hour mandate requiring two initial in-person appointments and on patients seeking to limit contact because of COVID-19.
Planned Parenthood’s clinic in Fairview Heights has performed 127 surgical abortions this year, the spokeswoman said. It was not clear how many of those were referred from St. Louis.
Among the speakers Friday at the rally was Randall Terry, the founder of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue who said the founding fathers “betrayed innocent life” by enshrining slavery in the U.S. Constitution. He then compared the fight to stop abortion to the abolitionists’ mission to end slavery.
“We find ourselves in a similar situation only worse,” he said. “Because slaves could run. Slaves could hide. Slaves could beg for mercy. Slaves could physically defend themselves. Slaves could band together and fight their oppressors. The unborn can do none of these things. They are dependent completely upon us. Completely. So it is only our voice, our action, our sacrifice that can bring this holocaust to an end.”
It was Terry’s group that claimed to have confirmed that abortions weren’t available for months at Planned Parenthood in St. Louis and that patients were being referred to the agency’s clinic in the Metro East.
Friday’s rally was organized by Defenders of the Unborn, a local organization led by Mary Maschmeier. At the event, Maschmeier praised decades of efforts by anti-abortion groups to close abortion clinics in the region.
“It took many, many years, many dedicated warriors to close seven of the eight abortion mills,” she said. “It’s important to know that our presence is still needed at Planned Parenthood. When the gates are locked and the building is sold, we will stop standing in front of this place — but not until then.”
Mark Harrington of Columbus, Ohio, president of Created Equal, led the crowd in chants calling to overturn Roe v. Wade and to “Make America abortion-free.” He said his group typically attends the March for Life event in Washington, D.C. but because it’s being held virtually this year, the group traveled to St. Louis instead for Friday’s event.
The rally ended with an a cappella rendition of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”