Editorial: Missouri might make out-of-state abortions illegal. That’s ridiculous

A masked woman holds a sign reading "Bans Off Our Bodies!"
A demonstrator protests the six-week Texas abortion ban at the Capitol in Austin last year.
(Associated Press )

The assault on women’s reproductive rights in state legislatures across the country has ramped up since the Supreme Court signaled in December that it might uphold a Mississippi ban on abortion at 15 weeks of gestation and dismantle the landmark ruling in Roe vs. Wade that protects a woman’s right to an abortion.

Last week the Florida Legislature passed a 15-week ban, which Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign. After the court let stand a diabolical law that deputizes private citizens to sue anyone who helps a woman get an abortion in Texas starting at six weeks of pregnancy, more than 10 states introduced copycat laws. One of those states is Oklahoma, which has been a refuge for nearby Texas women seeking an abortion after six weeks — a limit that defies the standard set by Supreme Court rulings legalizing abortion up to the point of viability of the fetus outside the uterus.

But no legislation tests constitutional and legal limits like an amendment — stuck into a Missouri House of Representatives bill on prescription drug pricing — that would make it unlawful to help a Missouri woman get an abortion outside the state at any point in her pregnancy (unless her life is endangered by continuing the pregnancy.) Mimicking the Texas law, the measure would be enforced through lawsuits brought by private citizens, not state officials.


Abortion rights are under assault in the same court that once protected them.

Jan. 21, 2022

If the bill passes with this amendment, no one could perform an abortion on a woman from Missouri or help her get an abortion “regardless of where the abortion is or will be performed.” That would restrict health professionals from performing the abortion and people from providing information, transportation or funds to someone seeking an out-of-state abortion. Even “providing internet service that allows Missouri residents to access any website, that encourages or facilities efforts to obtain elective abortions” would be banned. Abortion is legal in Missouri up until 22 weeks, but since there is only one abortion clinic in the state and an array of time-consuming rules, many pregnant women wanting an abortion travel to Illinois or other nearby states that offer services.

Setting aside the bill’s impact on abortion access, giving private citizens the right to control — via lawsuits — the behavior of Missouri residents outside the state is absurd. As much as they might like to, state legislatures can’t pass laws that extend beyond their own jurisdiction, and they certainly don’t have a right to control what legal activities women undertake outside the boundaries of the state.

“One state can’t reach into another state and tell that state what to do,” says Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School. “We have this thing called state sovereignty. The federal government has to respect that, and the states have to respect their sister states.”

At least, that’s the way it should work. However, since we have a Texas abortion law that is clearly unconstitutional but has been been allowed to stand, lawmakers in Missouri may have reason to believe their outlandish law could be upheld by federal courts. “We truly are living in a moment where the rule of law is under threat,” says Elisabeth Smith, the director of state policy and advocacy for the Center for Reproductive Rights.

The Supreme Court is hearing a case asking it to overturn Roe vs. Wade, but it should reject it and continue to protect access to abortion.

Nov. 29, 2021

That’s the fault of the Supreme Court. The court has created an environment that has prompted a legal free-for-all when it comes to thwarting abortion access. That’s reprehensible and a dereliction of the court’s duty to protect the rights of all Americans.

The legislator behind this amendment is Missouri Republican and lawyer Mary Elizabeth Coleman, a mother of six who is sometimes compared to conservative Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. Coleman has gained some notoriety for her antiabortion bills and her embrace of the twisted logic that abrogating a woman’s right to abortion actually empowers her. The bizarre theory claims that the right to abortion is now unnecessary because bearing children no longer prevents professional achievement for women — and that having children empowers women.


There is no instance when the loss of rights has empowered anyone. The right to abortion has always been about choice — something that Barrett, 50, and Coleman, 40, have enjoyed throughout their reproductive years.