Jul 23, 2022 - Politics & Policy

The Democrat-led cities fighting abortion bans in red states

Abortion rights supporters rally outside the Planned Parenthood Reproductive Health Services Center in St. Louis on June 24. Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

A growing number of Democratic-led cities are seeking to protect abortion access and moving to cover costs for out-of-state abortions even in red states that restrict the procedure.

Why it matters: Democratic leaders in red states are eyeing ways around abortion bans amid concern about the expected increase in unsafe abortions after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last month.

Driving the news: St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones (D) signed a measure into law Thursday to establish a $1 million "Reproductive Equity Fund" that would cover logistical support including funding of child care and transportation for abortions outside Missouri.

  • Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibbs is working with the City Council to pass similar legislation that would create a $100,000 "Reproductive Freedom Fund" to cover costs for travel, lodging and other logistics.
  • Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval announced a new policy that would enable the city to reimburse employees for costs associated with travel for health services that are not available within 150 miles.
  • The city council in Kansas City, Missouri, approved a similar plan in June, stating the reimbursement funds will not come from taxpayer dollars or the city’s general fund.
  • In Ohio's capital, the Columbus City Council has proposed a $1 million "Education and Access Fund" to relieve financial barriers such as transportation, child care and lost wages for residents seeking abortions.
  • The Austin City Council in Texas has passed a resolution urging law enforcement to de-prioritize enforcement of criminal laws concerning abortions, something several other cities in red states are weighing as well.

Yes, but: Backlash has been swift.

  • Republican Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt sued shortly after the St. Louis bill was signed into law, calling the move a "blatantly illegal move to spend Missourians’ hard-earned tax dollars on out-of-state abortions."
  • Schmitt has also threatened to sue Kansas City, per local NPR affiliate KCUR.

Between the lines: The back-and-forth is likely to continue as more Democrat-led cities attempt to skirt state laws to protect abortion access.

Go deeper: How late in pregnancy each state allows abortions

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