Missouri's SB-5 Is A Nightmare For Pro-Choice Women

The Missouri House of Representatives has voted in favor of Senate Bill 5, which modifies statewide provisions relating to abortion. Changes would affect local abortion policies, tissue reports, employee disclosure policies and facility inspections.

Also known as SB 5, the bill imposes several highly burdensome and even more unnecessary restrictions on abortion providers. For example, the bill would require abortion providers to send fetal tissue samples to a pathologist within five days of the procedure. Legislative Track offers more details about the logistical hurdles this would introduce:

“The bill would require that all fetal organs and tissue removed at the time of an abortion be sent to a pathologist within five days for gross and histopathological examination. The pathologist would need to provide a copy of the tissue report to the abortion facility or hospital within 72 hours. If the pathological examination does not reveal the presence of a completed abortion, the pathologist must notify the abortion facility within 24 hours.

The department would need to reconcile each notice of abortion with its corresponding fetal organs and tissue report.

If the department does not receive either a notice or a report, the department would be required to conduct an investigation and, if a deficiency is discovered, must perform an unscheduled inspection of the facility to ensure such deficiency is remedied. If the deficiency is not remedied, the department must suspend the abortion facility’s or hospital’s license for at least one year, subject to applicable licensure procedures.”

Regulations like this serve no medical or scientific purpose whatsoever. Commonly referred to as TRAP laws- targeted regulation of abortion providers- anti-choice legislators use them as a pretext to impose extra costs and red tape on abortion clinics in an attempt to further restrict and close clinics. The ACLU says TRAP laws are typically “medically unnecessary, politically motivated” choices and can be summarized with “the end goal of making abortion access not just difficult, but impossible.” Additionally, SB 5 limits regulations of ‘Crisis Pregnancy Centers,' which are centers sponsored by anti-choice and pro-life organizations that push their agendas on anyone who enters their doors.

Things get even worse. The bill seeks to overturn a St. Louis ordinance that bans employers and landlords from discriminating against individuals based on their reproductive health decisions. This common-sense city ordinance, which St. Louis passed this spring, was apparently too much for Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, who took to the press to complain.

“Unfortunately, we have some radical politicians in St. Louis, Missouri, that wanted to create an abortion sanctuary city that would have made it illegal for pregnancy care centers and other pro-life organization just to hire pro-life workers.” Well, isn’t that just the pot calling the kettle black? Perhaps Greitens should look in the mirror if he wants to see a radical politician. An adult woman being able to plan when, and whether, to have kids without risking her job, home, or social judgment? Outrageous! So radical!

Greitens is so passionately against this ordinance, he called state legislators back to the Capitol this summer specifically to overturn the St. Louis law and to respond to the fact that Missouri’s last attempt to shut down abortion clinics ended up getting rejected by a federal judge. The result of this special session is SB 5, which was passed after just 10 hours of deliberations behind closed doors.

If SB 5 is passed, an individual could be evicted for having an abortion, using birth control, or becoming pregnant while unmarried. Pitched as an expansion of religious freedom for employers and landlords, the bill would give grounds for employers to fire female employees for the same ridiculous reasons listed above. As Newsweek Mirren Gidda said:

“Given the Senate’s vote on June 14, it is seen as likely to approve the updated version of SB 5. This would mean that landlords could refuse to offer housing to women based on their reproductive health choices, while employers could fire female staff members who were using birth control, or refuse to hire them. And while of course this isn’t information most landlords or employers have access to, under SB 5, they could ask women what forms of reproductive health care they are using.”

That’s right. Employers and landlords can now ask a woman about her reproductive history- and she can be rejected from a place to live or by an employer if she doesn’t give the desired answers. All of this will be done with a seal of approval from the state of Missouri.

This bill and the whole situation are so utterly invasive, bizarre and out-of-control that it almost defies logic. According to the CDC, 99% of sexually-active, reproductive-age women have used contraception. And whether or not someone is part of that 99% is nobody’s goddamn business. Missouri is taking the first steps in giving employers and landlords the power to police women’s personal choices about their bodies and their lives. The state is essentially saying that a woman’s livelihood, independence and her ability to provide for her family is less important than her landlord and boss’ religious beliefs regarding contraception and abortion.

If a boss morally objects to a woman having an abortion, her boss can fire her. However, if she decides not to terminate the pregnancy, he can also fire her for being pregnant out of wedlock. And if she chooses to use birth control to avoid getting pregnant in the first place, SB 5 ensures that her boss can fire her for that too. Remind me again how there’s no war on women?

This legislation is a huge middle finger to women. It’s not only restricting reproductive health choices, but these amendments stipulate that no reproductive health choices are satisfactory to conservative politicians. Unfortunately, women only hold 22% of the seats in Missouri, so it’s really up to the citizens to take up this fight. If there’s any good news, it’s that the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act already exists to prevent employers from firing or punishing pregnant female employees, including those who have abortions. Missouri is guaranteeing a trip to court if this gets approved, but since Greitens is pulling this political stunt, it’s to be expected that he will fight for this in court. The problem is, that same protection doesn’t extend to women who use birth control. This opens the door for discrimination on a huge population- pretty much any woman who’s ever had sex.

I suppose that’s the real point, isn’t it? This is tantamount to punishing women simply for being women and making choices for themselves and their personal sex lives. God forbid- pun intended- that a politician holds a religious belief and doesn’t shove it down the throat of people around them. I honestly do not understand this war on women having sex- make no mistake, legislation about anything like this always targets women. What’s next? Are landlord and employers going to go to the gynecologist appoints with women too? Are the politicians going to sign off on pelvic exams and ultrasounds? SB 5 is positively repugnant, and this travesty of a law should not pass.

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