Missouri Governor Eric Greitens on Monday said a special session of the legislature was a necessary response to abortion measures adopted recently by “radical politicians” in St. Louis.
Greitens made the comments after signing the Real ID bill, ensuring that Missourians can use their driver’s licenses to board planes and enter military bases and federal buildings.
Missouri had been one of only a handful of states that was not compliant with the federal Real ID Act, meaning Missourians could have been turned away from the facilities because their driver’s licenses were not deemed to be valid identification.
After the signing ceremony at Whiteman Air Force Base in Knob Noster, Greitens answered a handful of questions about why he called a special session of the legislature to enact additional abortion measures.
“Unfortunately, we had 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 organizations just to hire pro-life workers,” Greitens said.
He was referring to a largely symbolic St. Louis ordinance banning discrimination in housing and employment if a woman has obtained an abortion or used contraception.
Greitens also castigated a federal judge in Kansas City who recently blocked Missouri restrictions requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and abortion clinics to meet the physical standards of ambulatory surgery centers.
He was referring to U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs, who said the restrictions were very similar to Texas restrictions struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court last year. The state has appealed Sachs’ ruling.
“We recently had an unelected liberal judge who, with one stroke of the pen, wiped out health and safety standards for people all over the state of Missouri,” Greitens said.
Sachs actually struck down just the two restrictions and was careful to leave in place Missouri regulations that he said legitimately further the health and safety of abortion patients.
Greitens, however, said it was important “to put in place some commonsense health and safety standards and, as I mentioned, to address what's happened with these radical politicians who've tried to create an abortion sanctuary city.”
He said that abortion facilities should have at least one annual inspection a year and shouldn’t be allowed to interfere with emergency responders.
“You know, if an ambulance is called, they shouldn't be able to call the ambulance and tell them they need to go the slow way without using lights and sirens, or that they need to go in through the back gate,” he said. “These are some very basic, commonsense health and safety standards. It’s important that we do this for the people of Missouri.”
Greitens said one reason he called the special session was to protect the state’s crisis pregnancy centers, or as he described them, pregnancy care centers. The faith-based centers, which receive some funding from the state to defray expenses, oppose abortion and have been criticized for disseminating medically inaccurate information.
“Unfortunately those organizations – those pregnancy care centers – have already been driven into court, and that's why we have to take this action now,” he said.
Greitens apparently was referring to a lawsuit filed last month by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis and other organizations. The lawsuit challenges the legality of the St. Louis anti-discrimination ordinance.
Dan Margolies is KCUR’s health editor. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.