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In Today’s IRL Handmaid’s Tale, Missouri Voted to Legalize Discrimination Against Women Who Use Birth Control

Under his eye.

This past February, St. Louis, Missouri voted to declare itself an “abortion sanctuary city.” In an effort to distance itself from the state’s harsh stance on abortion, the city voted to “prohibit discrimination based on a person’s reproductive health decisions or pregnancy.” At the time, this sort of discrimination wasn’t legal, prompting some news outlets to call the pre-emptive ordinance “largely symbolic.” Yeah, we wish.

The city faced vocal opposition from business owners, lawmakers, and even the Governor, who took to his own Facebook page to declare “We need to send a clear message: the people of Missouri do not support Abortion Sanctuary Cities.” Except clearly they do, at least in St. Louis, which, despite its comparatively progressive leanings, is still part of Missouri. That’s why we vote, to tell our elected officials what we do and do not support. Still, the will of the people isn’t enough to stop anti-abortion politicians.

This Tuesday, the Missouri House voted to pass SB 5, a horrific bill that requires abortion providers to aggressively push alternatives to abortion, describe pain felt by the fetus, institute a 72-hour waiting period before the procedure can be administered, and immediately send all fetal tissue to a pathologist. It also bans abortions after 20 weeks except in cases of great risk to the woman’s life, since lawmakers just can’t wrap their heads around the fact that there are numerous reasons why women need late-term abortions, none of which is as a lazy afterthought birth control.

The bill mandates the patient’s paperwork “prominently display” the words “The life of each human being begins at conception. Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being.”

It also includes language specifically intended to roll back that St. Louis bill. According to SB 5, the government cannot force a person to “participate in abortion” if it violates their religious or personal beliefs, which is just about the most twisted language I’ve heard today. And if the St. Louis bill is repealed, freedom from discrimination for reproductive decisions isn’t limited to abortion. The rights protected run the gamut from IVF to contraception use (including condoms) to giving birth while unmarried.

A somewhat less atrocious version of the bill passed the Missouri Senate last week after a reported 14 hours of closed-door debate. It was then amended by the state House to include or tighten some of those above restrictions. They passed their awful version this week, and now it’ll head back to the Senate. Democrats there are putting up a fight, heavily criticizing the for-show politics of the bill and general treatment of Missouri women.

Dr. Colleen McNicholas, a St. Louis OBGYN testified at the Senate committee hearing, slamming Republicans for pretending to care about women’s health. “There are some real ways that the legislature could promote health and even reduce the need for abortion,” she told them. “But it would require women’s health to be viewed as something other than a political football.”

Democrat lawmaker Peter Merideth told a St. Louis radio station, “This feels like a political stunt to many of us. It’s being sold as an effort to show how pro-life the governor is.”

Missouri readers, take a moment to contact your representatives and let them know women aren’t footballs. For the rest of us, this is a reminder that we can’t take our eyes off our elected officials for a second, lest they try to sneak this sort of rights-stripping BS into our laws.

(via Daily Dot, Feministing, image: Shutterstock)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.