Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens said Wednesday he is calling lawmakers back to the Capitol to work on abortion policies, including looking at a St. Louis ordinance that bans discrimination based on abortions and pregnancies.
The session is slated to start Monday. The Republican governor said he also wants lawmakers to consider new abortion regulations, including annual inspections of clinics, after several anti-abortion measures failed to pass the GOP-controlled Legislature during the regular session that ended last month.
While largely symbolic, the St. Louis ordinance bans employers from firing, refusing to hire or disciplining women because they have an abortion, take contraception, use artificial insemination or become pregnant while not married. It also bans such discrimination in housing.
The ordinance was approved in the heavily Democratic city in an effort to pre-empt anti-abortion measures proposed during the regular legislative session. Greitens said in a statement Wednesday that the ordinance, which took effect in February, makes St. Louis "an abortion sanctuary city."
The ordinance prohibits discrimination based on "reproductive health decisions." It doesn't apply to religious organizations such as churches and schools, but there is no exemption for faith-based "crisis pregnancy centers" that counsel women against abortion.
A group of St. Louis Catholics has sued the city, arguing the ordinance could force employers or landlords to act against their religious beliefs.
After the ordinance was approved, Republican Rep. Tila Hubrecht introduced legislation she said would prohibit local governments and organizations from passing rules restricting the rights of crisis-pregnancy centers. The bill — which would have effectively nullified St. Louis' ordinance — passed the House in late March, but senators failed to send it to Greitens' desk before the regular legislative session ended on May 12.
This is the second time in less than a month that Greitens has called lawmakers back for a special session, which can cost as much as $28,000 a week in the Senate and between $50,000 and $100,000 in the House, depending on how many lawmakers attend.
The last special session dealt with proposals allowing metal manufacturers to negotiate lower rates for utilities with large utilities companies, such as Ameren. The bill passed.
That special session cost taxpayers more than $66,000, and some legislators had said the governor should only call them back again for urgent matters.