St. Louis County Proposes Fund for Childcare, Abortion Travel

The county’s abortion access proposal mirrors an almost-identical measure in St. Louis city

click to enlarge Missouri's abortion ban is "major public health crisis," according to County Executive Sam Page. - Reuben Hemmer
Reuben Hemmer
Missouri's abortion ban is "major public health crisis," according to County Executive Sam Page.

A new proposal would allow St. Louis County to use $1 million in American Rescue Plan Funds to help boost abortion access.

On Wednesday, County Executive Sam Page voiced his support for a proposal led by County Councilwoman Lisa Clancy (D-Webster Groves). In a letter on Monday, Clancy requested Associate County Counselor Margaret Brueggemann prepare legislation to support logistical costs for abortion access, such as childcare and transportation. She also called for funds to address the national baby formula shortage.

The $1 million will allow the St. Louis County Health Department to provide grants to community organizations who assist clients in getting reproductive health services, including abortions. The grants would not be used to pay for abortion procedures.

At a press conference Wednesday, Page described the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the federal right to abortion as a “dangerous political play that will jeopardize the lives of women for years to come.”

“In St. Louis County, we do not prescribe to these dangerous beliefs,” Page said.

The county’s proposal mirrors an almost identical measure circulating in St. Louis city.

A bill sponsored by Alderwoman Annie Rice (D-Ward 8) would direct $1 million in federal funds to help women receive abortions in other states.

Both proposals have raised questions of legality. A federal provision called the Hyde Amendment prohibits federal dollars from being used for abortion services. In addition, Missouri law prohibits using public funds for performing or assisting abortions.

ARPA, however, allows local governments to use pandemic aid to support the general health of their communities. Page told reporters he believes the county's proposal fits this bill.

But outside of the larger legal landscape, the measure would first have to survive the scrutiny of its own legislative body, and the pro-life councilmen within it.

At its meeting on Tuesday, St. Louis County Council approved a resolution condemning the overturn of Roe v. Wade through a split vote.

Among two other councilmen, staunch opposition came from District 3 Representative Tim Fitch. The Republican councilman condemned Page’s press conference planned for the following morning, calling it “a campaign speech” for Page to pander to voters.

“Tomorrow, he’s going to use dead babies to try to bolster his campaign, which is really sad,” Fitch said.

When asked whether he expected this measure will receive the support it needs, Page said “he believes it will.”

“This is a small piece of the ARPA funds; it’s important to protect the health and welfare of residents in St. Louis County, and abortion is health care,” Page said.

In 10 days, the council will meet to decide how to best spend the county’s remaining $74 million in ARPA funds, according to Page.

“I hope that $1 million of those funds will help those who need access but no longer have it thanks to last week’s court decision,” Page said.