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Missouri lawmaker wants Texas-style ban on abortion

Politicians debate during special session

Rep. Sara Walsh, R-Ashland, right, Rep. Nick Schroer, R-St. Charles County, center, and Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, talk during a debate over a Medicaid tax bill in the House chambers at the Missouri State Capitol Building in Jefferson City on Wednesday, June 30, 2021. The special session was called to pass the Medicaid tax bill, which has passed the Senate. Photo by Colter Peterson, cpeterson@post-dispatch.com

JEFFERSON CITY — A Missouri lawmaker introduced legislation Thursday that would ban nearly all abortions in the state, mirroring a new Texas law that could gut the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision that legalized the procedure.

Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, who is running for a seat in the state Senate, wants to prohibit the termination of a pregnancy once cardiac activity is detected in an embryo, usually around six weeks and before some women even know they are pregnant.

Her proposal also bypasses state officials who typically enforce laws and deputizes private citizens to sue clinics, doctors and anyone else who facilitates an abortion after the cardiac cutoff.

It also would attempt to further limit funding to the state’s lone abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, which already has taken steps to assist Missouri women seeking abortions by opening a clinic across the Mississippi River from St. Louis in Illinois.

“We must pass comprehensive pro-life legislation that defunds Planned Parenthood by enacting the Empower Women, Promote Life Act,” Coleman said in a statement. “This important piece of legislation will provide protection to children born in a botched abortion, ban the inhumane practice of dismemberment abortions, and follows Texas’ lead by providing a civil course of action for those who break the law by performing, aiding or abetting unlawful abortions.”

Coleman’s legislation is among at least 17 bills restricting or banning abortion filed in the run-up to the beginning of Missouri’s annual legislative session, which starts Jan. 5 and runs through mid-May.

The push comes against the backdrop of a looming election next year, in which Coleman and other state lawmakers are seeking higher office.

In the Senate, at least seven anti-abortion measures have been filed by members who are running for Congress or other positions.

Coleman’s bill drew condemnation from Pro Choice Missouri, which advocates for women’s reproductive rights under the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

Maggie Olivia, policy manager for the organization said Coleman and other “extremist politicians” are “willing to sacrifice the will of the people, and the lives of the people, to fundraise off of extremist ideological agendas to retain and further their own political power.”

Soon after filing her legislation, Coleman attended an event at Thrive Women’s Healthcare, an alternative to abortion pregnancy resource center.

In announcing the event, Coleman said, “Republican Leadership may be resistant to taking up these bills because 2022 is an election year. Our voices must be heard now more than ever. We need to show them they will have our support to pass these bills and protect the most innocent among us.”

In a tweet, Rep. Nick Schroer, who also is running for a seat in the Senate in 2022, said, “We will not rest until abortion is unthinkable and unlawful in this state.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court limited who can be sued by the clinics under Texas’ new law in an effort to win a court order preventing the law’s enforcement and allowing them to resume providing abortions without severe financial risks.

The court held that only state licensing officials can be sued, an outcome the clinics said would not stave off the filing of lawsuits against providers if abortions were to resume.

Coleman’s legislation is House Bill 1987.

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