Why the Senate Must Work to Protect Alternatives-to-Abortion Agencies

One of the most valued rights guaranteed to Americans in the Constitution is our right to freely exercise our religious beliefs without the risk of persecution from the government. I strongly believe that only a person’s conscience can tell them right from wrong, not the government, whether at the federal level, the state, or even local. I also believe there is an inherent dignity in every human being, and that Missourians are a compassionate people who sincerely want to live in a society that shows respect for each other – regardless of differences in beliefs. Unfortunately in some cities, our religious freedoms are under attack.

Earlier this year, the City of St. Louis passed Board Bill 203 which would affect the ability of alternatives-to-abortion agencies to operate. The ordinance includes penalties and fines for businesses not hiring pro-choice candidates for a job or providing abortion coverage or contraception in their health insurance plans. The major problem with this ordinance is that it tramples on First Amendment rights. Similar ordinances in other cities have attempted to force alternatives-to-abortion agencies and faith-based pregnancy counseling centers to post signs or referrals that are not provided at the centers as well as other First Amendment violations. The government has no right to interfere with the mission of these organizations. That violates the very fabric of what it means to be an American.

To preempt this ordinance, I’m sponsoring Senate Bill 41 which will provide protections for alternatives-to-abortion agencies. This measure allows the people of Missouri to freely practice their faith according to their conscience. No organization should be penalized for refusing to hire someone who would counsel in favor of abortion if it goes against the organization’s religious beliefs. This is a common-sense approach to people of all faiths as well as for people who hold no faith.

Missourians have a right to pursue faith, family, community, and meaningful work. I’m saddened we must actively protect alternatives-to-abortion agencies in their own communities where their mission is to help other community members in need. Alternatives-to-abortion agencies, like pregnancy resource centers, offer free counseling and services to pregnant women. Maternity homes offer free housing. Local governments should not interfere in how pro-life agencies advise and counsel women who come for free help.

I will continue to work to ensure the religious liberties of all Missourians, and I hope to see this piece of important legislation on the governor’s desk by May 12.

Sen. Wayne Wallingford, R-Cape Girardeau

District 27