Wednesday, August 17, 2022

St. Louis County proposes fund for childcare, abortion travel

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Reuben Hemmer

Missouri’s abortion ban is a “major public health crisis,” according to County Executive Sam Page.

A new proposal would allow St. Louis County to use $1 million in US Rescue Plan funds to help promote abortion access.

On Wednesday, County Executive Sam Page voiced his support for a resolution led by County Councilwoman Lisa Clancy (D-Webster Groves). In a letter on Monday, Clancy requested Associate County Counselor Margaret Bruggemann to draft legislation to support logistical costs for abortion access, such as childcare and transportation. He also sought funds to address the national infant formula shortage.

The $1 million will allow the St. Louis County Health Department to provide grants to community organizations that help clients access reproductive health services, including abortion. The grant will not be used to pay for abortion procedures.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Page described the Supreme Court’s decision to end the federal right to abortion as a “dangerous political drama that will put women’s lives at risk for years to come.”

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“In St. Louis County, we do not hold these dangerous beliefs,” Page said.

The county’s proposal reflects a nearly identical measure circulating in the city of St. Louis.

A bill sponsored by Elderwoman Annie Rice (D-Ward 8) would direct $1 million in federal funds to help women get abortions in other states.

Both proposals have raised questions about the legitimacy. A federal provision called the Hyde Amendment prevents federal dollars from being used for abortion services. In addition, Missouri law prohibits using public money to perform or aid in abortion.

However, ARPA allows local governments to use pandemic aid to support the general health of their communities. Page told reporters he believes the county’s proposal fits the bill.

But outside the larger legal landscape, the measure must first escape scrutiny from its own legislative body and the pro-life councilors within it.

At its meeting on Tuesday, the St. Louis County Council approved a resolution condemning the reversal of Roe vs. Wade through a split vote.

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Two other councilors met with strong opposition from District 3 Representative Tim Fitch. The Republican councilor condemned Page’s press conference planned for the next morning, calling it “a campaign speech” to lure voters to Page.

“Tomorrow, he’s going to use the dead kids to bolster his campaign, which is really sad,” Fitch said.

Asked if he expected the measure to get the support it needed, Page said, “He is confident it will.”

“It is a small part of the ARPA fund; It’s important to protect the health and well-being of residents in St. Louis County, and abortion is health care,” Page said.

According to Page, in 10 days, the council will meet to decide how to spend the county’s remaining $74 million in ARPA funds.

“I hope that $1 million of those funds will help people who need access, but don’t, thanks to last week’s court ruling,” Page said.

Nation World News Desk
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