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    Saturday, June 03, 2023

    With Roe on the ropes, it's urgent that abortion medication be kept accessible

    With the Supreme Court moving to overturn Roe v. Wade, the availability of self-administered abortion pills is about to take center stage in the debate. Congressional Democrats need to get in front of the issue and settle numerous questions raised by so-called morning after pills. If Roe does indeed fall, red states must not be allowed to take that as carte blanche to violate the First Amendment, interfere with interstate commerce or otherwise abuse standing legal structures in their zeal to deny women control over their own bodies. 

    Missouri is among Republican-run states that have strict “trigger” laws on the books if Roe is overturned. Missouri’s trigger law includes an outright ban on abortion at any time during a pregnancy except in medical emergencies. The law would punish anyone (other than the woman herself) who performs “or induces” an abortion, even to aid a rape or incest victim.

    That wording is aimed squarely at drugs like mifepristone and misoprostol used to induce abortion during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. These increasingly preferred drugs are federally approved as safe and effective, and they put the entire topic of pregnancy exactly where it belongs: between the woman and her doctor. This is the same reason anti-choice legislators are so keen to find ways to crack down on access to the pills.

    In Missouri, that effort has been extreme. Not only would Missouri’s trigger law prohibit almost all drug-induced abortions in the state, but current state law prohibits remote consultation with doctors about abortion medication. This would effectively prevent Missouri women from even calling doctors or clinics in states where the pills remain legal to make arrangements to get them.

    If that sounds unenforceable, remember that Missouri made national news this year for proposed legislation that claimed the power to punish abortion providers in other states who aid Missouri women in obtaining out-of-state abortions or even giving them information.

    With so much of the abortion-pill issue crossing into areas of interstate commerce and free speech, Congress has a perfectly legitimate interest in erecting federal guard rails to ensure that red states can’t trample constitutional rights in their stampede to trample women’s rights.

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