Editorial Roundup: Missouri

St. Louis Post-Dispatch. June 16, 2024.

Editorial: This isn’t a drill. The GOP is serious about ending reproductive rights.

There are times when careful observers can deduce subtle warning signs of dangerous political movements in progress. There are other times when those signs are blaring sirens with red spinning lights that only the willfully oblivious could miss.

The GOP’s pending project to restrict reproductive rights at every level qualifies as the latter.

As we outlined in this space last week, the ruling by the Supreme Court’s activist majority two years ago ending all constitutional protection for abortion rights has effectively made America into two nations on the topic — with right-wing politicians in strict anti-choice states like Missouri aggressively seeking ways to impose their draconian will on women even in pro-choice states.

But it’s not just abortion. On broader reproductive issues like contraception and in vitro fertilization (IVF) as well, an emboldened political right is testing boundaries in service to its fundamental if unspoken doctrine that, with the fall of Roe v. Wade, women’s uteruses are effectively public property.

They will (usually) strenuously insist otherwise. But as in all issues, what people say isn’t nearly as relevant as what they do.


• As expected, Senate Republicans this month blocked a Democratic measure to provide federal protection for access to contraception.

Yes, Democratic leadership proposed the doomed measure for the purpose of putting Republican lawmakers on the spot in an election year. On the spot is where they belong on this issue.

All they had to do to thwart Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s diabolical plot was to officially support a right most of them publicly claim to support. Yet just two Republicans (both women) put their votes where their rhetoric was on a woman’s right to this crucial reproductive choice.

The rest who were present — including Missouri Sens. Josh Hawley and Eric Schmitt — voted against protecting legal access to contraception.

• The need for such federal protection is clear.

In his concurring opinion in the overturn of Roe v. Wade, Justice Clarence Thomas specifically called for revisiting other constitutionally guaranteed privacy rights, including contraception. Since then, state-level politicians and judges in red states have repeatedly sought to chip at the right to contraception and IVF access as well — generally on the mistaken (or deliberately misleading) premise that those processes involve abortion.

The most startling example was the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling that frozen embryos created during the IVF process have full rights of personhood and cannot be discarded. In the real world, leftover embryos are an unavoidable fact of the IVF process.

IVF clinics in Alabama had to suspend operations after the ruling until the state legislature stepped in to provide specific protection for IVF treatments. Yet legal experts say even that protection is on shaky ground, given the state’s continuing official stance that life begins at conception (a stance also reflected in Missouri law).

• Senate Republicans recently sought to defuse the issue with a for-show IVF-protection bill that wouldn’t actually protect IVF.

The measure would deny Medicaid funding to states that specifically ban IVF — which conveniently ignores the fact that the real threat is de facto banning caused by “personhood” laws that could make IVF impossible to carry out on a practical level. Crucially, the bill did nothing to ensure that IVF facilities wouldn’t be criminally charged or sued for the inevitable discarding of embryos.

Democrats rightly called out the charade and killed the legislation. As Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., put it: “The stone-cold reality is that you cannot protect IVF and champion fetal personhood” at the same time. This bill showed as clearly as anything that Senate Republicans will sacrifice the former for the sake of the latter.

As if to prove that point, those same Senate Republicans on Thursday killed a Democratic measure to protect IVF access — a measure that, unlike the GOP version, would actually have done that.

• If GOP politicians are trying to obfuscate their ideological opposition to reproductive rights in general, the ground-level activists who make up their political base are being blunt about that opposition.

The Southern Baptist Convention, representing the nation’s largest Protestant denomination and the epicenter of evangelical GOP support, voted last week to oppose in vitro fertilization entirely. The resolution specifically calls for “the government to restrain” any processes “inconsistent” with the organization’s version of pro-life protection, “which necessarily includes frozen embryonic human beings.”

And Project 2025, the blueprint for a second Donald Trump presidency put forth by the major conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, proposes scrubbing all federal laws and regulations of phrases including “sexual orientation,” “gender equality,” “abortion” — and “reproductive rights.”

Trump himself recently hinted he would be open to some form of federal restriction on contraception, before scrambling to backtrack amid the outraged public response.

Given Trump’s famously fluid and generally disinterested approach to policy (not to mention his unprecedented willingness to just plain lie), nothing he says today regarding reproductive rights really matters.

In terms of where a second Trump administration and Republican-controlled Congress would be on the issue, the activist base of the GOP is what matters — and it has been as clear as possible about the fact that it sees reproductive rights as expendable in the post-Roe era. This isn’t a drill, folks.