Planned Parenthood Affiliate in Missouri Now Supports Abortion Limit It Very Recently Opposed

Lifting Missouri’s abortion ban would be meaningful. But a ballot measure to re-enshrine a standard that Planned Parenthood warned against isn’t great.

Planned Parenthood Affiliate in Missouri Now Supports Abortion Limit It Very Recently Opposed
The Planned Parenthood center in St. Louis, Missouri. Photo:Shutterstock

There’s been a simmering debate in the reproductive rights movement about how to proceed now that Roe v. Wade is gone: Should advocates re-enshrine Roe at the state level, or, knowing the decision never guaranteed full access, push for something better?

The president of Planned Parenthood, Alexis McGill Johnson, has called out the deficiencies of Roe, which yes, protected a legal right to abortion but only until fetal viability—or about 24 weeks of pregnancy. Roe never guaranteed that anyone, regardless of gestation, could access the procedure. In a January 2023 op-ed for Teen Vogue, McGill Johnson said she was “letting go of Roe” because future generations deserve better. She wrote: “Without the framework of Roe, we can advocate for the ceiling as we write ourselves back into the Constitution.”

But, by and large, groups including Planned Parenthood are not advocating for the ceiling, they are advocating for Roe 2.0, which would once again let states ban abortion after viability. Early last year, one Planned Parenthood affiliate in Missouri even warned about the 24-week framework being sold as a solution to abortion access post-Roe.

In February 2023, Ohio became the first state after the ruling was overturned to launch a ballot campaign to enshrine the right to abortion in the constitution. But advocates in the state, who were finally freed from the Roe framework, still chose to codify the viability standard. (Michigan also used the limit in 2022, but that campaign began before Roe fell.) Enshrining abortion access is a good thing, especially in so-called “red” states, but viability limits have left people behind for decades. And yet, there are active efforts for viability ballot measures this November in Arizona, Florida, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, and, now, Missouri.

On Thursday, Missourians for Constitutional Freedom unveiled its proposal for the state’s abortion ballot measure after months of deliberation. (The proposal language is available on the Secretary of State website.) But it sounds like finding consensus was far from easy: The coalition submitted 11 proposed versions of a ballot measure, and only one of the 11 proposals was a so-called “clean” ballot that didn’t include the viability standard. Previous reporting from Mother Jones and The Nation noted that some Missouri providers and advocates were vocally opposed to those 10 options because they would recreate Roe.

Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri is part of that coalition behind the ballot measure announced Thursday, despite opposing viability framework last year. On February 27, 2023, the organization sent a memo to reporters titled, “Abortion restrictions under the guise of protections” and published it online.

Here’s a snippet:

…in a post-Roe reality, the Roe framework and any legislative, policy, or political interference in reproductive health care including abortion will not get our support. Here’s what a Roe framework and/or governmental interference can look like:
“Viability” limits, even when it’s packaged as an abortion access policy. “Viability” is not a medical construct and has no relevance to clinical care. It is a political construct set under Roe v. Wade. We now know that the viability standard tried and failed to balance state and personal interests, and it did not work. If we mean what we say — that Roe was the floor, not the ceiling — then advocates and allies must abandon the Roe framework and allow providers and patients the freedom to make decisions about their health care plan.

Abortion is totally banned in Missouri right now, so lifting that ban would be meaningful, but re-enshrining Roe won’t do a thing for women and pregnant people who need later abortions. That includes people who get new medical information, folks who can’t afford the travel or childcare necessary to get to the closest clinic, and those who discover their pregnancies late.

Jezebel contacted PPSLR for comment on whether the affiliate had formally changed its stance on viability limits. In a statement, Yamelsie Rodriguez, president and CEO of Advocates of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, noted that Missourians were effectively without abortion access for years before the end of Roe, but she did not directly answer the question.

Here is the statement in full:

It has never been more urgent to build meaningful abortion access in the Show Me State. Because Missouri politicians spent years chipping away at abortion access, our state saw abortion access decimated even before the Supreme Court eliminated the federal right to abortion. But Missourians want and deserve the freedom to make their own decisions about abortion and pregnancy with their health care providers — without politicians jamming themselves into the exam room.
Now, we are seizing the opportunity to build a level of abortion access in Missouri we haven’t had in a generation. Today marks the beginning of our campaign for Missourians to have the freedom and power to make their own personal health care decisions, and the end to anti-abortion politicians dictating their anti-medicine ideology onto all our bodies. We stand ready to work with Planned Parenthood partners, patients, supporters, and more to build meaningful and lasting abortion access for all Missourians.

MCF also includes Abortion Action Missouri, the ACLU of Missouri, the Fairness Project, and Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes. In the group’s first post on X (formerly Twitter), they wrote: “Together, we’re working to restore freedom for ALL Missourians to make their own health care decisions. Today, we’re launching the campaign to end Missouri’s abortion ban.”

But this messaging rings hollow when their proposal would let lawmakers ban abortion after viability and could force the most desperate patients to leave the state, or simply remain pregnant. It’s something, but it’s certainly still not access for everyone.

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