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Planned Parenthood leaders urge St. Louisans to fight to protect abortion rights

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President and CEO Alexis McGill Johnson spoke to St. Louis supporters Thursday, March 7.
Chad Davis
St. Louis Public Radio
Planned Parenthood Federation of America President and CEO Alexis McGill Johnson told St. Louis supporters Thursday that a bill in the Missouri legislature to restrict abortion access is part of a nationwide effort.

Access to abortion in Missouri is at risk as Republican legislators seek tougher restrictions, Planned Parenthood's national leader warned Thursday.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President and CEO Alexis McGill Johnson spoke Thursday at the annual luncheon for its St. Louis affiliate.

Abortion rights advocates are fighting efforts in states across the country to overturn Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, Johnson said.

“We know that if Roe falls, the ability to access abortion will be determined by the states,” Johnson said. “Fighting state by state is what we will do. But it means that we no longer fully have the rights to control our bodies."

The Missouri House this weekpassed a bill that includes a provision making it a felony to distribute or administer abortion-inducing drugs in ways that violate state or federal law. It also has provisions that would block public funding to abortion providers and affiliates and allow family members to seek a wrongful death suit if a baby is “born alive” after an attempted abortion and is then injured or dies.

The bill will be considered by the Senate in the coming weeks.

Such proposed restrictions are among efforts across the country to restrict abortion access, Johnson said.

“We know who is going to bear the burden of these bans — Black, indigenous, Latino communities, the LGBTQ+ community, people with low incomes, people in the South and the Midwest,” she said.

Texas lawmakers passed a law last year banning abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected, about six weeks into a pregnancy. That law, and similar measures by lawmakers in other states, aims to challenge the Supreme Court to revisit Roe v. Wade, said Yamelsie Rodriguez, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri.

“What we have seen after the passing of [the Texas bill] is this ripple effect of legislatures in red states moving fast-tracking bills, trying to prepare for a post-Roe reality,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said Planned Parenthood in St. Louis is receiving increased support. Its Central West End location operates Missouri’s sole abortion provider.

Last month, philanthropist Mackenzie Scott donated $9 million to the regional organization, its largest one-time donation.

Rodriguez said the organization needs support.

“It’s a solid foundation, but what we also know is that we are at a time where abortion access is at an inflection point,” Rodriguez said. “This is an all hands on deck moment, so it’s going to take all of us.”

Follow Chad on Twitter: @iamcdavis

Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.