St. Louis Aldermen Pass $1 Million Abortion Assistance Bill

Pregnant residents could use the money to cover travel or childcare costs

Jul 15, 2022 at 3:56 pm
The bill will help residents pay for costs associated with abortions. - DOYLE MURPHY
The bill will help residents pay for costs associated with abortions.

The City of St. Louis Board of Aldermen approved a bill on Friday that will set aside $1 million in American Rescue Plan Funds to help residents pay for costs associated with abortions.

Board Bill 61 creates a Reproductive Equity Fund to cover residents' travel and childcare costs as they seek abortions.

Aldermen also approved a measure authorizing independent investigations of police misconduct. Board Bill 47 establishes a new civilian-led oversight agency within the Department of Public Safety to carry out the investigations. The Division of Civilian Oversight would be led by an as-of-yet appointed commissioner.

Mayor Jones has publicly backed both measures approved on Friday.

"The St. Louis Board of Aldermen voted to protect reproductive healthcare, boost our efforts against COVID-19, strengthen accountability in our police force, and break cycles of violence by expanding community intervention programs," Jones said in a statement. "These key bills will help make St. Louis a safer, stronger, and fairer city."

If Board Bill 61 takes effect, St. Louis would become one of few cities in the country with a fund designated for abortion support.

"St. Louisans need abortion access logistics help, postpartum support and assistance at every stage of pregnancy, now, more than ever," Yamelsie Rodríguez, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri said in a statement after the bill's passage. "Solutions like the St. Louis Reproductive Equity Fund that help curb the impending public health crisis are exactly what patients need to live full, healthy lives."

Board Bill 61 also dedicates $500,000 to support grants for organizations that provide reproductive health services, such as doula and lactation support. In addition, the bill sets aside over $2 million to provide COVID-19 services and incentive gift cards for city residents who get vaccinated.

Jones has previously said she expects the city will be sued if this bill passes. A state law bars the use of public funds for performing or assisting abortions.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has threatened to sue local governments that passed abortion support funds, saying they were "plainly illegal under Missouri law."

Legal concerns brought some to vote "no" on the bill, including Ward 23 Alderman Joe Vaccaro.

"I understand, and I get the decision from Roe has upset a lot of people, but this is not about that," Vaccaro says. "This does nothing but tie up $4 million in court, and it will also cost us money to defend it."