Missouri faith leaders file lawsuit against Missouri’s ban on abortions

Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 5:54 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - 13 clergy members from various religious backgrounds are fighting back against a common goal, as they file a lawsuit challenging Missouri’s ban on abortion.

“I’m am not here today to advocate that Missouri incorporate a Jewish view on abortion into our laws,” said Maharat Rori Picker Neiss, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis. “I’m here today because none of our religious views on abortion or anything else should be enshrined into our laws.”

In the 83-page lawsuit, these clergy members argue Missouri’s ban on abortions violates the separation of church and state protected in Missouri’s Constitution. The lawsuit explains that not only is there language in the abortion ban that indicates a religious motivation against abortion access, but the document also states some lawmakers who supported the ban acted on their religious beliefs.

“Without this separation, there is neither religious freedom nor just law,” said Reverend Traci Blackmon, the Associate General Minister of Justice and Local Church Ministries for the United Church of Christ.

The lawsuit sites the first section of Missouri’s ban regulation abortion, where it begins with the quote, “In recognition that god almighty is the author of life...”

“We’re not here to impose any one religious viewpoint on anyone. What we’re here to say is every pregnant person should get to make her own decision about her own body, health, life and future according to her own religious and moral convictions and beliefs,” said Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Americans United, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) and the law firm Arnold & Porter are representing the 13 clergy members in the lawsuit. It directly lists the state, Governor Mike Parson, the Attorney General, the prosecuting attorneys for multiple counties, and the St. Louis City Circuit Attorney’s Office as defendants.

“I experienced a missed abortion when I was 23 years old, and the state of Missouri couldn’t figure out what to do with a dead fetus I carried around for 5 weeks,” said Reverend Barbara Phifer, who is also a State Representative for District 90. “I’ve known for decades that the state is not capable of making decisions about my body.”

“A lot of people can file lots of lawsuits all over the place, and of course until the court actually makes any opinions on this, we’re going to keep serving women in the state of Missouri,” said Brian Westbrook.

Westbrook is the executive director of Coalition Life which is a local organization supporting the end of abortion and helping women find alternative solutions after pregnancy. He argues Missouri’s ban is not rooted in religion but science.

“Scientific fact means that at the moment of fertilization, you become a human being, unique and different from anybody else on the planet,” said Westbrook. “So, its not even a religious argument, and it’s all about the fact that we want to protect both women and children.”

Missouri’s Attorney General, Andrew Bailey shared a statement in response to the lawsuit:

“As Attorney General, I will protect the Constitution and defend the right to life with every tool at my disposal. The United States Supreme Court has already rejected arguments like those in this suit in Harris v. McRae, and the Missouri Attorney General’s Office already won a similar suit on these issues at the Missouri Supreme Court. We look forward to doing it again. I want Missouri to be the safest state in the nation for children and that includes unborn children.”