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Dozens rally in support of SCOTUS decision

by Cameron Gerber | June 25, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.
A small crowd gathered Friday on the steps of the Missouri Supreme Court to celebrate the overturning of the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion case

"We've been praying for the end of abortion for years and years, and this is a day to celebrate," Mary Hoffmeyer said.

Holding up one end of a large banner on the steps of the Missouri Supreme Court Friday, the Taos resident applauded a victory for the pro-life movement across the country, saying "things aren't going to change a whole lot in Missouri because Missouri is very proactive and our senators have passed very good laws. The only place that's doing abortions right now is St. Louis. And they are doing very, very few. They're mostly referring them over to Illinois. So it isn't going to change a whole lot in Missouri, but for the United States, this is awesome."

At the other end of the banner, Dennis Fessler from Macon said he had been active in the fight against abortion for nearly 50 years.

"My wife and I back in '72 was hearing about Roe v. Wade and coming up. We didn't understand what abortion was all about," he said. "It shocked us, and we've been pro-life ever since then."

Spotty drizzle didn't deter them or the dozens of people who gathered on the steps of the Missouri Supreme Court Friday to commemorate a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that's already changing abortion policy across the nation -- including in Missouri.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Mississippi state law that would ban abortions after 15 weeks, the approval of which essentially gave states control over the legality of abortion. Roe V. Wade, a 1973 Supreme Court case, set the standard 24-week window for abortion policy at the federal level.

The ruling also pointed to a follow-up case decided in 1992 that reaffirmed the right to an abortion.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a frequent supporter of anti-abortion policies, signed an opinion shortly after the decision was made official, a move that effectively ended abortion in the state. Missouri has a trigger law on the books that would allow the attorney general, governor or legislature to ban abortion if the landmark 1973 decision were overturned; Schmitt said it was the first state to do so.

Gov. Mike Parson also signed off on a proclamation prohibiting abortions unless in the case of a medical emergency, creating criminal liability for those performing or inducing non-emergency abortions and protecting women who have received illegal abortions from prosecution.

"Thanks to decades of conservative leaders, Missouri has become one of the most pro-life states in the nation, and our Administration has always fought for the life of every unborn child," Parson said in a statement. "Today, our efforts have produced what generations of Missourians have worked and prayed for: Today, we have won our fight to protect innocent life."

Missouri is one of more than a dozen states that have trigger laws on the books.

Parson and Schmitt weren't the only members of the state's executive branch marking the day. Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft and Lt. Gov Mike Kehoe spoke during the two-hour-long rally, each touting a step in a decades-long political conflict.

"It's an incredibly emotional day because of the people in this crowd," Kehoe said. "The Court rendered the decision, but it's the people here who made that happen; it's the people here across the country for 49 years who've been praying for this decision to come forward."

Ashcroft, a frequent speaker at pro-life rallies in the Capital City, signed onto Parson's proclamation that morning in his role as Secretary of State.

"I was so grateful for this to be reminded that it's not over. It's not over. We continue to need to make sure that we'll protect life, that we will care for people in situations where they don't know what else to do. And we need to stand for life to live with compassion for everyone," Ashcroft told the crowd. "So thank you for what you've done. This is about making a difference. This is about life, and life more abundantly."

Ashcroft led them through a verse of "God Bless America" to close his speech while, on the other side of the street, a small group of protesters tried to make their own voices heard.

Karalynn Fisher, Kaitin Garrett and Melissa Rogge came from Columbia to demonstrate themselves, chanting out to those gathered at the rally while holding up signs of their own, saying: "Abortion is a personal decision not a legal debate," "You can't ban abortion you can only ban safe abortion" and "Keep abortion legal."

"Abortion has been and will be a protected right under the Constitution," Fisher said. "When we take something such as the right to privacy, such a landmark case, it uproots our entire legal system. Every case that rested on Roe v. Wade is known danger. The right to privacy is not where it's going to stop. They're going to keep going and they're going to go farther. If we let them have an inch, they will take a mile."

"This is just a war on women, and we believe in women's rights," Garrett said. "We're going to stay out here and fight for women's rights because this is for every woman I know."

"I felt really called to action to be here today," added Rogge. "You hear a lot of stories about how people's grandmothers, aunts, really any friend they know has had to go through that back in the '70s, so might as well come out today and fight for what they fought for."

The decision drew quick responses from local groups as well. Debbie Stokes, president of the Vitae Foundation, a national nonprofit focused on abortion decision research based in Jefferson City, said the decision was one the group has long-awaited and noted there were resources available for expectant mothers.

"Many people don't know that [pregnancy health centers] exist to connect women with financial resources, housing, free or low-cost daycare options, clothing, food, and emotional support during and after the pregnancy," Stokes said in a statement. "No matter the legality of abortion, many women need the support of pregnancy centers. Our ProWomanApproach embodies love and respect for those mothers and their children. Out of that respect, we want women to be fully informed of all the options and resources at their disposal before they make their final decision."

"I welcome the decision by the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, ending 50 years of our federal government defending the killing of the unborn. As I wrote recently, whenever we disregard the dignity of any class of human beings, we impoverish our own dignity, and the bonds that hold our nation together suffer," said Bishop Shawn McKnight of the Diocese of Jefferson City. "Let us redouble our efforts in the important work of accompanying women with unexpected pregnancies and eliminating the societal causes for abortion."

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