Recently, Missouri became the first state in the nation since 1973 without an active abortion clinic. This is both a badge of honor and a clarion call to other states that we are winning the battle to protect life and now is the time to press the fight. How did Missouri get here and what can we do moving forward to advance this coast to coast?
Missouri has historically been at the forefront of the pro-life movement. In 1986, our state passed statutory language that required that all state laws be interpreted to provide unborn children with rights equal to those enjoyed by other persons and prohibited the use of public funds, employees or facilities to “encourage or counsel” a woman to have an abortion, except where her life was in danger. When multiple abortion clinics sued, the attorney general of the state argued the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and, in 1989, won a 5-4 decision in Missouri v. Reproductive Services.
In 2000, and again in 2003, when Missouri was led by Democratic governors, our legislature passed legislation banning partial birth abortion and requiring waiting periods on abortions. In both cases, the governors vetoed the legislation, and in both situations, the legislature convened and overrode the vetoes.
This culminated in 2019, when as speaker of the Missouri House, I watched with horror and heartbreak as New York lit up the Empire State building pink and the Virginia governor endorsed legislation allowing infanticide. The legislature went to work with a multilayered approach. HB 126, on its face, was a ban on any human that had a recordable heartbeat.
To that we added tiered restrictions — If Roe was overturned, abortion would be banned back to conception. Abortions for reasons of sex, race, or Down Syndrome were prohibited. Minors now need to inform both parents if they want an abortion, and we increased insurance requirements for abortionists to match those of obstetricians.
The other side went into overdrive. Protests in the Capitol became the norm. Our final vote to pass the bill was delayed as the galleries were cleared of screaming protesters. Lawsuits were filed. An initiative petition to repeal the legislation we had passed was attempted. However, through it all, the legislation stood. And with each passing day, the enforcement of HB 126, and the progeny that arose before it, made performing abortions more difficult, increasingly expensive, and eventually, unrealistic.
Winston Churchill once said his mantra was, “Never give in — never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in …” Missouri has followed that mantra. We have never stopped pressing on all fronts. We have exhausted every avenue and every action such that we have achieved an historical achievement in the protection of life. And it is our hope on this Friday’s Sanctity of Life Day, other states will reach and achieve those same goals.
• Elijah Haahr served as speaker of the Missouri House from 2018-2020 and oversaw passage of HB 126.