Sam Page supports $1 million in ARPA funds for abortion travel expenses

Published: Jun. 29, 2022 at 6:28 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KMOV) -- St. Louis County Executive Sam Page announced his support for a proposal to set aside $1 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to help pay travel expenses for women leaving Missouri to get an abortion. The idea was first proposed by Councilwoman Lisa Clancy.

“This is about protecting health and welfare women in St. Louis County are facing some very difficult decisions in their lives moving forward because of this Supreme Court decision,” said Page.

Page said the money would be used for transportation and childcare and that none would be used for abortions or counseling a woman about an abortion.

The county has $77 million dollars in unspent ARPA funds and according to County Council Chairwoman Rita Heard-Days, money isn’t available to be spent in this way.

“Our ARPA resources are already committed with the priorities the Council has previously set,” she said.

Councilmen Mark Harder and Ernie Trakas questioned whether it is legal or appropriate to use ARPA funds to help women get abortions. Councilman Tim Fitch said Page was pandering to his political base.

“I guarantee you not a dime will go for the intended purpose. They will not be able to do this, I think we will find it’s not in the rules for ARPA funds,” he said.

St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell attended the press conference with Page and said he supports a woman’s right to make decisions about her reproductive health. And because of that, he announced that he would not enforce the state’s new law banning abortions. He explained that prosecutors have wide discretion about when to charge someone with a crime.

“We have limited resources and prosecutors every day make decisions on how to best utilize those resources,” said Bell.

Bell said his priority has always been to prosecute violent and serious offenses.

Bell also had signed onto a letter put out June 24 by a national group of progress prosecutors called Fair and Just Prosecution. The letter stated that enforcing abortion bans runs counter to the obligations that prosecutors are sworn to uphold.

According to Brian Westbrook of Coalition Life, abortion providers can still be prosecuted if local prosecutors won’t charge them.

“If the local prosecuting attorney doesn’t enforce that then the attorney general’s office would,” said Westbrook.

The only clinic performing abortions on the Missouri side of the metro area before the ban was in St. Louis City and not St. Louis County.