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GOP-backed House bill would strike down St. Louis' 'abortion sanctuary city' law

Planned Parenthood supporters marched silently past the organization's Central West End clinic as anti-abortion activists prayed during a 2017 demonstration.
File photo | Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio
Planned Parenthood supporters march silently past the organization's Central West End clinic as anti-abortion activists pray the Rosary Feb. 11, 2017.

A St. Charles County lawmaker seeks to reverse a new ordinance in neighboring St. Louis that bars employers and landlords from discriminating against women who are pregnant, use contraception or have had an abortion. 

House Bill 989 was filed late Tuesday by Rep. Phil Christofanelli, R-St. Peters. He said in a written statement that it's a direct response to St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay signing of the so-called "sanctuary city" measure into law, which took effect last week.

St. Louis CityBoard Bill 203 adds reproductive health decisions and pregnancy to the city's anti-discrimination ordinance.

Christofanelli said the ordinance opens churches and businesses whose owners are anti-abortion up to lawsuits.

"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."

The bill must go through a few procedures before it can get a public hearing. Christofanelli said it was "crafted in coordination" with Missouri Right to Life, which has a strong lobbying presence at the Missouri Capitol and widespread support among ideologically conservative lawmakers.

"(St. Louis) civic leaders have taken every citizen into the business of protecting abortion," Missouri Right to Life President Steve Rupp said. "This action betrays the fine history of this state, betrays the many citizens in the St. Louis area and across the state who are proud of and love St. Louis and love to spend time there with friends and family. Board Bill 203 clearly discriminates against the religious freedom of those who oppose the killing of innocent human beings in the womb."

The bill must go through a few procedures before it can get a public hearing.

Alison Dreith, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, released the following statement:

"Obviously, Rep. Christofanelli hasn't read Board Bill 203. If he had he would know that it doesn't create a 'sanctuary city' for abortion. What Board Bill 203 does do is protect people in the City of St. Louis from being discriminated against for their reproductive health care decisions and in pregnancy. It is ironic, however, on the day that the House debated Real ID, that a legislator who does not live in the City of St. Louis would file a bill to stop local control. Instead of being obsessed about further restricting abortion access, Republicans in the Missouri legislature should work on policy to protect pregnant women, like Board Bill 203 does, or fix our current ID situation, so that Missourians are able to board airplanes, visit military bases, and vote. HB 989 is just another sad attempt to control women, as we have previously seen in Rep. Christofanelli's 20-week abortion ban."

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter: @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.