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Page pushes St. Louis County Council to fund access to abortion

Dr. Sam Page, St. Louis County Executive, gives a public update on rental assistance during the COVID-1 pandemic on Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021, at the St. Louis County Government building in Clayton, Mo.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, shown in September 2021, supports an effort by two of his close allies on the county council to use $1 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to help people access abortion.

The largest county in Missouri could help cover the costs of people who need to travel to have an abortion.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page on Wednesday announced his support for a proposal requested earlier this week by Councilwomen Lisa Clancy, D-Maplewood, and Kelli Dunaway, D-Chesterfield. It asks the council to allocate at least $1 million in American Rescue Plan money to the Department of Public Health, which would in turn provide grants for expenses like hotels and child care.

Page called the U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned the constitutional right to abortion, and Missouri’s near-total ban on the procedure that took effect, a “dangerous political play” that will put the lives of millions at risk.

“In St. Louis County, we do not prescribe to these dangerous beliefs,” he said. “I’m going to do all I can to help those who are being left behind by this recent court decision.”

A spokesman for Page said the county executive would “look for any avenue of funding” when the initial infusion of COVID-19 relief money expires.

The proposal is nearly identical to one making its way through the St. Louis Board of Aldermen. The board’s health committee on Tuesday unanimously sent it to the full board. A final vote will likely occur July 15. Mayor Tishaura Jones has already said she will sign it.

In Kansas City, Mayor Quinton Lucas is asking the City Council to adopt a resolution calling on the city manager to make sure health insurance for Kansas City employees will continue to cover federally-approved contraception. Lucas also wants the city to reimburse its employees or their dependents up to $300 in a budget year to cover the cost of “healthcare-related travel expenses for healthcare not available within the City’s limits.”

He did not mention using public funds to assist non-employees with the costs.

Asked about St. Louis’ proposal on Tuesday, Gov. Mike Parson said governments assisting with abortion access “or private companies getting involved with this, I don’t think this is a good solution to anything right now.”

Also on Wednesday, St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell made it clear that he is not interested in using his office’s “limited resources” to prosecute medical providers who might run afoul of the state ban.

“There is no public safety issue,” Bell said. “As a matter of fact, it’s quite the opposite. This is about protecting our residents, protecting those making a difficult choice, and we will use our discretion accordingly.”

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.