Missouri County Set to Spend Federal Pandemic Relief Money on Out-of-State Abortions

Despite warnings from Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, some members of the St. Louis County Council want to allocate COVID-19 relief funds for the purpose of reimbursing women for abortions they secure in other states.

“I don’t understand why St. Louis Democrats believe this is even legal,” said Paul Berry, a Republican who is campaigning to represent Missouri’s 2nd Congressional District.

“If Joe Biden thought utilizing COVID funds for out-of-state travel to have abortions was a viable plan, he probably would have said so.”

The allocation was proposed by Councilwoman Lisa Clancy who called for $1 million of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to be allocated to nonprofits for the facilitation of transportation and lodging for pregnant women seeking an abortion outside of Missouri.

“There’s nothing in the law that allows us to spend this money because you disagree with the Supreme Court decision,” said St. Louis County Councilman Tim Fitch (R-District 3) who voted against the resolution.

“Missouri state law prohibits using any kind of tax dollars for the purposes of obtaining an abortion.”

Clancy declined to comment.

“When I spoke against it, I asked whether we’ll cover people who need to travel to the Mayo clinic in Minnesota for cancer treatment and no, it won’t,” Fitch told The Epoch Times.

On June 28, the council approved 4-3 a resolution that condemns the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, which was introduced jointly by Councilwomen Rita Heard Days, Kelli Dunaway and Shalonda Webb.

Neither Days nor Webb responded to requests for comment, while Dunaway declined to comment.

St. Louis County isn’t the only location in the state looking to offer assistance to pregnant women seeking out-of-state abortions.

Kansas City and St. Louis City have also vowed to use taxpayer dollars to fund abortion.

“It’s appalling,” said State Rep. Nick Schroer (R-O’Fallon), who sponsored a 2019 bill that bans abortion upon the detection of a fetus’ heartbeat.

“These are tax dollars that have been allocated to the states to cope with all of the business shutdowns and grief from tyrannical mandates.

Now, they want to use that money to send people over to Illinois in order to receive abortions? That’s just wrong.”

In response, Schmitt ordered the municipalities to follow the law.

“St. Louis City and County, and Kansas City, and any others who attempt to authorize taxpayer-funded abortions will be met with a lawsuit from the Missouri Attorney General’s Office,” Schmitt warned in a statement online.

Lawmakers are scheduled to convene in September for a veto session but currently, the Missouri Legislature is adjourned.

As a result, Rep. Schroer is pushing for Gov. Mike Parson to call a special meeting to implement stronger barriers on the state level as to what federal COVID-19 relief dollars can and cannot be used for.

“I don’t think it’s very clearly laid out what certain penalties would be if they were misusing them so that’s what a special session would be about,” Schroer said.

“We could set guidelines that they must spend it in a certain manner or risk losing state funds from our own budget and our own coffers in the future.”

Under the 188.205 Revised Statute of Missouri, it is unlawful for any public funds to be expended for the purpose of performing or assisting an abortion, not necessary to save the life of the mother, or for the purpose of encouraging or counseling a woman to have an abortion unless it is for a medical emergency.

“This is a political stunt,” Fitch said of his council colleagues. “They’ll pass it, the county executive will sign it and it’s going to tie up a million dollars of our ARPA funds. The money will just sit there. They won’t spend it.”

Dayanara Ramirez, a spokesperson for the U.S. Treasury, did not immediately respond to requests for comment about whether Missouri municipalities would face federal consequences if ARPA funds were spent on funding the logistics of securing an abortion.

“For any legislation, there always has to be two rounds of voting of the legislative body,” Fitch added. “The county executive then has to sign it, which he will and once he does, it will take effect in 15 days.”

Berry, who filed a complaint with the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Treasury, would rather see the $1 million spent on community health.

“MRIs and CT scans are very expensive and if we spend the money on increasing our capacity to be able to provide low-income people with scans, to catch some of these diseases early, like cancer, it will give them a better opportunity for success,” said Berry who is a married father of four daughters.

“Spending one-half of one cent on abortion is too much for me.”

Juliette Fairley

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Juliette Fairley is a graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Born in Chateauroux, France, and raised outside of Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, Juliette is a well-adjusted military brat who now lives in Manhattan. She has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, TheStreet, Time magazine, Newsmax and many other publications across the country. When she is not reporting and writing for the Epoch Times, she works as an actress in television and feature film.

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