Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens

Jefferson City, Mo., Jun 8, 2017 / 03:47 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Missouri’s Gov. Eric Greitens has called a special session of the legislature to pass stronger legal protections for pro-life groups, like pregnancy centers he charged are “under attack” by a controversial St. Louis ordinance.

“Our faith community and volunteers do incredible work to support people in need. And there's few finer examples than the work pregnancy care centers do across our state,” Greitens said in a video posted to his Facebook page June 7. He said his pro-life stand was motivated in part from witnessing “the value of true love and compassion in one of Mother Teresa’s homes for the destitute and dying.”

The governor’s action follows the February enactment of a controversial ordinance in the City of St. Louis which has drawn strong pro-life opposition. Opponents said the law would bar any individual or entity, including Christian organizations, from refusing to sell or rent property to individuals or businesses that promote or provide abortions. It could create the risk of lawsuits for Catholic schools with a policy against hiring abortion supporters.

The ordinance creates a protected status for anyone who has “made a decision related to abortion,” even in cases where the abortion was not their own. The protections apply to corporations and all businesses, not only individuals. The St. Louis’ archdiocesan school system, a pro-life pregnancy center called Our Lady’s Inn, and a Catholic-owned private business are among the parties to a lawsuit challenging the ordinance.

Last month, Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis said the archdiocese will not comply with the “vile bill” which he said marks the city’s “embrace of the culture of death.” Greitens was also among the ordinance's critics. He praised pregnancy centers’ pro-life work with pregnant women, new mothers, and newborns.

“In the city of St. Louis, some of these pregnancy care centers are under attack,” his video message said. “There’s a new city law making St. Louis an abortion sanctuary city – where pregnancy care centers can't work the way they're supposed to. Politicians are trying to make it illegal, for example, for pro-life organizations to say that they just want to hire pro-life Missourians.”  

The governor said the Missouri Senate failed to act on a bill that would address the measure, which prompted the need for the special session.

Another focus of the special session will be what the governor called “common-sense health and safety standards in all medical facilities.” These include proposed requirements such as annual safety inspections in abortion clinics and mandatory plans for abortion complications.

The governor also advocated laws that “will stop abortion clinics from interfering with emergency responders.” He contended that abortion clinics currently can tell an ambulance to come slowly, not to use lights and sirens, or go around to the back of the clinic.

According to the governor, a court decision weakened health standards for abortion clinics. In April a federal judge, citing a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision on a similar law in Texas, struck down a Missouri law that required abortion clinics to have the same standards as similar outpatient surgical centers. The law also required abortionists to have hospital privileges. Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley is appealing the ruling.

Allison Dreith, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, charged that the governor’s action was intended “to shame women for their personal medical decisions and make basic reproductive health care harder to access.”

Susan Klein, legislative liaison for Missouri Right to Life, backed the legislation, saying it would allow legislators to pass “a life-saving bill to protect women, unborn babies and reaffirm our religious liberties so that Pregnancy Resource Centers and Faith Communities from all denominations are not forced to participate in abortion.”