Speed Reads

across state lines

Missouri considers Texas-style law to stop out-of-state abortions

Missouri's state legislature is considering a proposal that would empower private citizens to sue anyone who helps a Missouri woman obtain an abortion, even if the abortion takes place in another state, Politico reported Saturday.

"If a Missouri resident is hurt, even in Illinois, by a product that they bought in Illinois, there is still jurisdiction for them to sue in a Missouri court because that's home for them ... this is extending that same kind of thought to abortion jurisprudence," state Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, who is pushing the policy in the form of amendments to health bills, told Politico.  

The Texas Heartbeat Act, which allows private citizens to sue anyone who "aids or abets" a woman in obtaining an abortion, uses a similar enforcement mechanism but does not apply to out-of-state abortions.

In December, Joel Mathis argued at The Week that the Texas law has been craftily designed to avoid federal judicial review but that the Supreme Court is likely to overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey soon, removing the need for the Texas "workaround."

Twelve states have "trigger bans" on the books that will ban abortion if the court overturns or guts these precedents, according to The New York Times. Meanwhile, blue states have also been scrambling to enshrine abortion access in state law while pro-choice activists work to establish an "Underground Railroad" to help women from states that restrict abortion terminate their pregnancies at out-of-state clinics, NBC News reported.

Even if a Supreme Court ruling renders Texas-style bans obsolete within red states, Coleman's proposal signals that they could still have a role to play in preventing women from obtaining abortions across state lines.

Politico notes that legal experts say the battle over interstate abortion access could raise legal issues that have lain dormant since the Fugitive Slave Act helped trigger the Civil War.