Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) has promised Southern Baptists he would work to repeal a St. Louis ordinance setting up the city as a sanctuary city for abortion.
“We must protect people of faith and we must protect the unborn. We must win this and I am proud to lead the fight on this issue,” Greitens told Don Hinkle, public policy adviser for the Missouri Baptist Convention.
Hinkle said he doesn’t know how Greitens will accomplish that, but said he must because the St. Louis ordinance is “an evil law.”
“Board Bill 203 must be overturned and I promised the governor that Missouri Southern Baptists will assist him in fighting this vile action that makes St. Louis a city of death and targets the least among us — the unborn,” Hinkle said.
Greitens may not have let Hinkle in on his strategy for stopping the abortion sanctuary city movement, but it looks like pro-life advocates in Jefferson City, Mo., are going to try to do it by putting up a legislative blockade.
The St. Louis ordinance, Board Bill 203, was approved by the St. Louis Board of Aldermen on Feb. 10 on a 17-10 vote. It changes the city’s discrimination ordinance to include abortion providers and women who receive abortions and make them a protected class on the same level as people who might face discrimination because of race, gender, religion or disability.
“Today was a huge victory for women and reproductive rights,” said the sponsor of the ordinance, Alderwoman Megan Ellyia-Green (D). “Being in a ‘red state’ doesn’t mean that we can’t pass progressive policy at the local level to protect women’s ability to make personal decisions about their reproductive health without the intrusion of their employers or landlords.”
St. Louis Democrats did not speak with one mind on BB203.
Alderman Stephen Conway (D) said Green only proposed the ordinance because of the March 7 Democratic Board of Aldermen primary election and told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that some causing divisions is one way politicians have learned to get elected.
“We shouldn’t be here to divide people any more than we are now,” Conway said.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Green faced a challenge in the primary from a former alderwoman who claimed Green only wanted to be on a national stage and didn’t care about more mundane topics like “Dumpsters and alleys”
Alderwoman Marlene Davis (D) supports keeping abortion legal. But she said during the debate before the final vote on BB203 that she was afraid it would “open up a can of worms” because of problems it would cause the archdiocese and other religious groups.
Rev. Robert J. Carlson, Archbishop of St. Louis, described Board Bill 203 as a “terrible moment for a city with such a proud history.”
“I am outraged that the City of St. Louis Board of Aldermen has now enshrined into law an ordinance which creates a ‘sanctuary’ for the despicable practice of abortion,” Carlson said in a statement. “In other words, the laws of the City of St. Louis now actively protect and promote the killing of unborn children, children.”
However, Alison Dreith, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, said the St. Louis Board of Aldermen should be “applauded for ensuring that hardworking women aren’t discriminated against.”
“In St. Louis, we know we’re stronger when we pull with all our weight,” Dreith added. “Yet women across our region face the prospect of being discriminated against for their personal decisions about when and if they raise a family.”
The Missouri Legislature could be the trump card that Gov. Greitens will play to settle this matter, at least until it goes to court.
Some opponents of BB203 contend the ordinance does not protect the religious freedoms of business owners and employers who object to abortions for religious reasons. They are also afraid the bill could bring fines against anyone, like landlords, who don’t want to be associated with abortion.
“BB 203 attempts to force churches and others to be complicit in the profound evil of abortion,” read a statement from Missouri Right to Life. “BB 203 would force employers and landlords to hire and rent to people who publicly support abortion, or face charges of discrimination. The language of the bill is ambiguous, but it could have profound and troubling consequences for religious institutions.”
That’s the opening pro-life advocates hope to use in the legislature to block the St. Louis abortion sanctuary city movement.
Only a few hours after St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay signed BB203, a state House committee was debating proposed legislation that would block the ordinance on the grounds that it inhibits free speech and the religious rights of agencies that offer alternatives to abortion.
However, Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia, a Democrat who co-sponsored the ordinance with Green, said there was no need to worry about the city trampling on anyone’s civil rights or religious liberties.
“I think that there has been quite a bit of unfortunate misinformation about this bill,” Ingrassia told the Post-Dispatch. “And I think that a lot of the discrimination arguments were the same ones that we had when we protected the LGBT community, people of color and a variety of other protected classes.”