Recently, the anti-abortion movement has started to claim Missouri is an “abortion-free” state. Anti-abortion group Operation Rescue has made this claim about Missouri at least twice in the last year. This claim is false. We have long seen how the abortion opponents’ movement peddles an alternate reality where facts can be “alternative” and pseudoscience and bad science are used to back claims. To be clear: This claim is in service of an anti-abortion agenda with the purpose of undermining abortion access. It is important for people to recognize that Operation Rescue is not a credible source.
Missouri is not an abortion-free state, and it never will be.
Abortions performed at the last remaining abortion clinic in Missouri, Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, have been impacted by unnecessary restrictions mandated by the state legislature and the Department of Health and Senior Services. At present, only surgical abortions are available at this health center. It’s not because abortion pills don’t work. It’s because Planned Parenthood has taken a stand and refuses to perform an unnecessary pelvic exam mandated by anti-abortion politicians in Missouri before providing abortion pills to patients. This means that people who want an abortion with pills in Missouri look to surrounding states, as they often do regardless of their preferred method of abortion. Abortion funds are assisting with abortion costs for Missouri residents whether they ultimately get their care in Missouri, Illinois, Kansas, Arkansas or Oklahoma. Missouri residents deserve better than abortion restrictions.
What’s more, we know that no matter what cruel things state legislators or even the Supreme Court may do to further restrict access to abortion, self-managed abortion with pills is growing and here to stay. Abortion pills are simple to use and unstoppable. We know this because we have been organizing in Missouri and around the country to get out the word about the World Health Organization protocol for how to use abortion pills to safely and effectively end a pregnancy. One of the things we hear most from people after they attend one of our sessions is that they feel empowered.
Far too much research has been conducted for legislators of all stripes to continue to ignore or downplay how abortion access affects people’s overall health, economic and educational opportunities and well-being. Access to abortion has a bearing on every part of our lives from maternal health, mental health, high school dropout rates, college attendance, intimate partner violence rates and more. Therefore, abortion access is a human right. The health and well-being of people who can give birth affects their families and communities. This is not a them and us situation. Nothing is. We are all connected. Denying one person’s bodily autonomy threatens everyone’s bodily autonomy.
Everyone should be able to decide if and when they give birth. The anti-abortion movement doesn’t want that, and their agenda lies repeatedly in service of a racist, sexist agenda to elevate the power of white men especially. Abortion opponents tell lies about “abortion-free” states that will never happen because they want to scare people out of accessing the care they need. We won’t let them. Abortion is here to stay.
Erin Matson is executive director and co-founder of Reproaction, which leads bold action to increase access to abortion and advance reproductive justice. Evonnia Woods is senior outreach producer of Reproaction and is based in Columbia, Missouri.