Earlier this month, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen voted 17-10 in favor of Board Bill 203, which has been referred to as an “abortion sanctuary city” law.
At face value, the bill bans discrimination against individuals based on reproductive choices. While at first glance this may seem fairly non-controversial, it’s the potential application of the law that raises concerns for pro-lifers, religious groups, and people opposed to unnecessary government intrusion. For example, the law could force landlords to rent property to abortion businesses against their beliefs, or punish employers (possibly including pro-life groups and/or religious groups) who refuse to hire abortion activists.
So while the bill is being promoted as an effort to protect rights, it also appears that it could likely result in the opposite: government interfering in the rights of private citizens, institutions, and businesses.
Catholic Archbishop of St. Louis Robert J. Carlson slammed the bill as “misguided,” and indicated no intent to comply when the bill is enforced as law. Archdiocese lawyer Tom Buckley joined Carlson in arguing that the bill violates the U.S. Constitution and the rights of citizens, and claimed the archdiocese intends to sue if the bill is enforced.
Alderwoman Carol Howard, a Democrat, expressed opposition to the NARAL-backed bill, which she believes is causing needless tension, rather than helping the city come together to actually address problems. “We need to come together rather than create divisiveness,” Howard argued following the vote.
Missouri’s governor, decorated former Navy Seal and pro-lifer Eric Greitens, has spoken out in opposition to the ruling of the St. Louis aldermen, arguing that it could negatively impact pregnancy resource centers. In his 2018 budget proposal, Greitens proposed over $6 million in funding for pregnancy centers.
“We’re working with legislators, faith leaders, women’s advocates, and anyone who values life to fight back against this Abortion Sanctuary City movement,” Greitens explained.
On Tuesday, Missouri Rep. Phil Christofanelli filed a bill that would strike down Board Bill 203, according to St. Louis Public Radio. “The fundamental role of government is to protect life, and that includes the lives of the unborn,” he said. “St. Louis has failed in government’s chief design through an awful and ill-advised ordinance that would force pro-life property owners to accommodate abortion facilities.”
NARAL attacked Christofanelli’s bill as “another sad attempt to control women, as we have previously seen in Rep. Christofanelli’s 20-week abortion ban.”
But Missouri Right to Life President Steve Rupp says Bill Board 203 needs to be undone to protect the rights of pro-lifers. “Board Bill 203 clearly discriminates against the religious freedom of those who oppose the killing of innocent human beings in the womb.”
With pro-lifers, religious groups, and people of various political/religious leanings who oppose government intrusion in business, religion, and personal beliefs united against Board Bill 203, the decision from St. Louis may not long survive.