Missouri AG Eric Schmitt beats Hartzler, Greitens to claim GOP Senate nomination

ST. LOUIS — Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt beat back a crowded field of opponents Tuesday night to secure the Republican nomination for Missouri’s open U.S. Senate seat.

With a little over a half of precincts reporting, Schmitt led with 44% of the vote, compared to 23% for U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler and 20% for disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens.

“I don’t come from billions. I come from Bridgeton. I’m proud of my working class roots. And I’m going to Washington to fight for working families, defeat socialism and lead a fight to save America,” Schmitt said to supporters gathered at the Sheraton Westport Lakeside Chalet.

Schmitt’s win capped a wild GOP primary, which featured 21 candidates vying for the seat of retiring U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt. In the end, Schmitt bested the two candidates seen as his main rivals — U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler and disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens.

U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler concedes the Republican Senate primary Tuesday night in a speech to her election night party in Cass County. (Rudi Keller/Missouri Independent)

A crowd of around 150 heard from Hartzler at the Cider House in Garden City — and it was the speech they didn’t want to hear. She said she had just called Schmitt to congratulate him on the victory.

“We fought hard, left no stone unturned, but unfortunately the outcome was not what we had hoped for,” Hartzler said.

Hartzler pledged to back Schmitt, something she said in February she would not do if the nominee was Greitens.

“The road to retaking the majority in the U.S. Senate runs right through Missouri,” Hartzler said.

At Greitens’ election night party in Chesterfield, his concession speech was brief.

“God has a plan, it doesn’t always work on our timeline,” Greitens said, later adding: “Let’s keep the fight alive.”

Greitens supporters stood divided, with some vowing to support Schmitt and others saying they will boycott the general election in November. Greitens didn’t provide guidance either way, telling his supporters he loved them, with echoes of “I love you too” in the audience.

Katie Hinkley from St Louis, who attended Greitens’ election night party, said she will support Schmitt in the general election but will be disappointed if Greitens leaves politics. She hinted at the scandals that forced him from office in 2018, as well as the allegations of child abuse that his ex-wife made against him this year.

“One of the reasons why I think maybe he does have supporters is because people admire the grit and determination in the face of attacks and an onslaught of people essentially paid to derail his career,” Hinkley said of Greitens.

Schmitt’s public persona morphed form as he geared up for a U.S. Senate bid, from a state senator most considered toward the party’s center to a blowtorch-wielding MAGA Republican. His campaign focused on his bevy of lawsuits as attorney general challenging everything from school mask mandates to China’s role in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking to supporters, Schmitt said the country was entering its most consequential decade in American history since the Civil War and vowed to push back on “President Biden’s all out assault on our liberties.”

That includes tackling inflation, securing the U.S.-Mexico border and finishing Trump’s border wall, he said.

“As your senator, I’ll take a blowtorch to D.C.,” Schmitt said, referencing one of his campaign ads.

Schmitt’s victory Tuesday was telegraphed by weeks of polling showing him as the race’s frontrunner. He was aided by Greitens’ polling drop in the wake of a political action committee funded by Schmitt donors attacking Greitens with ads highlighting accusations of child abuse.

“In my opinion, Greitens was never fit for office,” said Lane Osborn, a 19-year-old Neosho resident who interned on Schmitt’s campaign. “Bottom line.”

He also avoided near disaster when former President Donald Trump decided against endorsing Greitens and instead endorsed an unspecified “Eric,” refusing to choose between the two and blunting any last-minute boost Trump’s seal of approval may have given Greitens’ ailing campaign.

Nevertheless, both Schmitt and Greitens claimed the endorsement as their own.

Former Republican candidate for Missouri governor John Brunner speaks to supporters at Eric Schmitt’s election night watch party in St. Louis on Aug. 2, 2022 (Photo by Tessa Weinberg/Missouri Independent).

With early results looking in Schmitt’s favor an hour after the polls closed, John Brunner, ran against Greitens in 2016 for the GOP nomination for Missouri governor, predicted a “landslide coming through here pretty darn quick.” He posed to supporters at Schmitt’s watch party: “Do we need two Erics for Missouri?”

The question was met with shouts of “no,” and multiple supporters said their support for Schmitt had been cemented well before Trump’s endorsement.

“We’ve been supporting him since 2008,” said Mary Parsons, an 82-year-old Kirkwood resident. “We’ve raised him.”

Schmitt entered politics as an alderman in Glendale, and later served in the state Senate for eight years until term limits ended his tenure in 2016. From there, Schmitt was elected state treasurer and was appointed attorney general in 2018 by Gov. Mike Parson in the wake of Greitens’ resignation. Schmitt was re-elected to the attorney general’s office for a four-year term in 2020.

“He’s been steady all the way across the board. He’s still what he was 20 years ago,” said Michelle Politte, a 58-year-old Fenton resident. “I like that about him.”

As attorney general, Schmitt has aimed to defend Trump’s administration, backing a Texas-led lawsuit seeking to invalidate the election results from four states in the wake of the 2020 November election. Schmitt also launched a legal blitz on hot-button issues, turning his focus to critical race theory and curriculum taught in schools, public health orders and President Joe Biden’s administration.

For Carolyn Davis, a 58-year-old Jackson resident who was between voting for Hartzler and Schmitt, Schmitt’s efforts to tackle human trafficking and lawsuits against school mask rules helped convince her he was the candidate that could ensure Missouri’s open U.S. Senate seat stayed in Republican control.

“That shows to me, he’s a fighter,” Davis said. “He’s not gonna just sit back and do nothing. He’s gonna be out front, kind of like Josh Hawley.”

His efforts haven’t always garnered praise. Fellow Republican state lawmakers accused him of using his office for political gain and earlier this year slashed $500,000 Schmitt requested for his office’s budget.

He received scrutiny after emails revealed his office had been in contact with the Rule of Law Defense Fund, the 501(c)(4) arm of the Republican Attorneys General Association, which had been involved in a robocall encouraging “patriots” to march to the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Meanwhile, Schmitt said he hopes to protect the next generation’s freedoms, and said his son, Stephen, who has special needs, “was my inspiration to want to have a greater impact on the world and make a difference.

“And that fire still burns,” Schmitt said.

Hartzler held an election watch party at the same venue where she celebrated her 2010 victory over Ike Skelton. The joy of that night was missing, however, as supporters gathered with hopes but without expectations of a victory.

Rylee Hartwell, Hartzler’s Jasper County coordinator, traveled to Cass County from Joplin with David Weaver for the event. They said they helped Hartzler because of “her genuineness.”

“She is a hard worker and she has worked her way up,” Weaver said.

Hartwell said Hartzler worked hard in southwest Missouri, visiting six times and running a strong ad campaign.

“She never changed from the start ‘til now,” he said. “She’s always represented conservative causes.”

This story has been updated since it was initially published.

Missouri Independent is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Missouri Independent maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jason Hancock for questions: info@missouriindependent.com. Follow Missouri Independent on Facebook and Twitter.

Candidates’ ties to Missouri reform schools facing abuse allegations draw fresh scrutiny

At first, Robert Bucklin was optimistic.

A former student of Agape Boarding School in Stockton, Bucklin is among numerous students who have accused the Christian boarding school and its staff of physical and sexual abuse.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt launched an investigation into the school and ultimately recommended 65 criminal counts against 22 staff. The charges involved 36 victims and reached up to Class B felonies for abuse of a child. Schmitt’s office even asked a judge to empanel a special grand jury to hear evidence.

But Bucklin’s hopes quickly faded when Ty Gaither, the Cedar County prosecuting attorney, chose to only file a combined 13 counts of third-degree felony assault — the lowest felony class — against five staffers of the school. As a result, Schmitt asked Gov. Mike Parson last year to take his office off the case.

Bucklin, who is suing Agape, has been outspoken ever since.

He publicly decried Gaither’s decision, going as far as filing a bar complaint against the prosecuting attorney, and has been critical of Schmitt for not doing more to shut down the school. His criticism soon extended to Parson, who he noted has longstanding ties to several boarding schools that have come under scrutiny in southern Missouri.

And Bucklin is not alone.

With Missouri’s primary election less than two weeks away, former boarding school students, activists and candidates have begun making noise about politicians and elected officials with connections to unlicensed religious reform schools, state-contracted youth residential facilities and summer camps that have faced allegations of abuse and neglect.

Relationships that were uncontroversial for years are now earning scorn from those who say elected officials have for too long turned a blind eye to allegations of abuse, with past associations and campaign contributions coming under new scrutiny.

“If you have these ties to places that abused children, you frankly shouldn’t be in office,” said Taylor Burks, a Republican running to replace Vicky Hartzler in the 4th Congressional District.

Bucklin, now 28 and living in Michigan, said former students who suffered abuse shouldn’t be forced to lead the charge against their abusers.

“As a victim of sexual and physical abuse myself at the school, I shouldn’t be fighting harder than the attorney general,” Bucklin said of Schmitt, who is now running for U.S. Senate.

‘Take all the legs out from under the chair’

Among the horrors he says he endured during his time at Agape as a teenager in the late 2000s, Bucklin says he was restrained on the ground for over an hour at a time despite the school’s claims it only employs restraints for a few minutes.

Agape has previously denied allegations of abuse.

In letters to his parents when Bucklin was between 13 and 16 years old, he wrote in scratchy scrawl that he couldn’t stand to be at Agape much longer.

“I hate life,” he wrote. “I don’t want to be here. I wish I was never born.”

“Sometimes I feel like I get treated like a dead rat or something of that kind,” he went on to write.

Affixed to the letter was a yellow post-it note that read: “You need to read this letter. There is a lot that needs to be changed.” The note was written by a staff member of Agape, Bucklin said. An undated incident report said a letter was confiscated and Bucklin was asked to rewrite it.

“The letter is filled with lies that Robert needs to correct,” the report signed by a staffer said, which was provided to The Independent and obtained through the discovery process in Bucklin’s ongoing lawsuit against the school.

Bucklin’s desperation to get anyone to help stop the abuse he says he suffered has been reignited as he works to bring public pressure on Schmitt and Missouri officials to do more to close Agape.

When Bucklin calls and emails the attorney general’s office, he said, “I send like five or six emails before they respond back.”

So he’s resorted to filing open records requests with Schmitt’s office, and in a recent email to the attorney general’s office, Bucklin wrote that it seems as if victims have been abandoned.

Bucklin argues Schmitt has the authority to shut down the school under a recent law passed last year that requires unlicensed facilities to register with the state and establishes a process by which children can be removed in instances of suspected abuse or neglect.

In a response to the bar complaint Bucklin submitted against Gaither, the Cedar County prosecutor wrote that under state law Schmitt’s office is authorized to request a hearing in front of a juvenile judge in order to determine if reasonable cause exists to shut down a facility.

Schmitt has not done so, Gaither wrote in his March letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Independent.

Reached Tuesday, Gaither declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation into Agape. The bar complaint process is ongoing.

A spokesman for Schmitt’s office declined to comment and did not clarify if Schmitt has considered taking action to remove students. Schmitt’s Senate campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

A spokeswoman for Parson did not respond to a request for comment on Bucklin’s criticisms.

James Griffey, who attended Agape as a student from 1998 to 2001 and left in 2002 after working on staff, said it’s demoralizing to feel like so little is being done to close the school.

“Here we are, still a year later, and Agape — the poster child for all these schools — is still open, even though there’s all these allegations of abuse going on. All these court cases, video. It’s like, what more do you need to shut this place down?” said Griffey, who is now 39 and lives in California.

Colton Schrag, who testified before lawmakers last year about the abuse he endured while at Agape, said he felt if Schmitt had the authority to pursue the recommended charges in Agape’s case, he would have.

“I’m not mad at him,” said Schrag, who is now 30 and living in Texas. “I just think he could push the matter a little bit further if he really wanted to.”

Colton Schrag, who spent years at Agape Boarding School in southwest Missouri, where dozens of former students have described experiencing abuse, testifies during a committee hearing Feb., 10, 2021 (Tim Bommel/House Communications).

Ultimately, officials should be pushing to protect kids at all costs, Schrag said.

“We’ve heard multiple people say the same thing from different generations,” Schrag said of former Agape students’ allegations. “I mean, what’s the common denominator? It’s not these boys. It’s the place they went to.”

Agape is the second unlicensed, religious reform school in southwest Missouri that Schmitt’s office has assisted Gaither in investigating.

In the case of the now-closed Circle of Hope Girls Ranch in Humansville, Schmitt was appointed by Parson as special prosecutor in 2020. The school’s owners, Stephanie and Boyd Householder, face nearly 100 felony charges for statutory rape, child abuse and neglect. A trial is set to begin in November 2023.

The owners of the school had long standing connections to state lawmakers in southwest Missouri. Emails obtained by The Independent previously showed the Householders kept lawmakers apprised of local law enforcement and child protective services investigations, relayed allegations of abuse and shared positive testimonials from students and parents.

In response, lawmakers offered their assistance and advocated on behalf of the school to the Department of Social Services.

Allegations of abuse at religious reform schools in Missouri have persisted for decades. However, it wasn’t until the last two years that both Circle of Hope and Agape were thrust into the limelight following a series of investigations by The Kansas City Star and a legislative inquiry by Missouri lawmakers.

Unlike the case against Circle of Hope Girls Ranch, Gaither has retained authority on whether to issue charges related to Agape.

In the race for Missouri’s open U.S. Senate seat, Democratic candidate Spencer Toder has worked with Bucklin to convince national organizations, like the National Council for Private School Accreditation and Association of Christian Teachers & Schools, to rescind their accreditations of Agape. Toder said he also plans to target ads toward parents who visit the school in order to warn them about past students’ allegations.

Neither Agape nor an attorney for the school responded to requests for comment.

“Our goal,” Toder said, “is to take all the legs out from under the chair that is Agape.”

Renewed scrutiny

Longstanding ties to other youth residential facilities and camps across the state have come under renewed scrutiny leading up to the Aug. 2 primaries.

U.S. Rep Vicky Hartzler who, like Schmitt, is running for U.S. Senate, received a campaign contribution of $5,000 last year from Debbie Jo White. Along with her husband, Joe White, Debbie Jo runs Kanakuk Kamps, a Branson-based Christian summer camp under scrutiny for sexual abuse of campers.

The camp was first embroiled in scandal over a decade ago. Kanakuk camp counselor and director, Peter Newman, pled guilty in 2010 to seven counts of sexual abuse. A civil suit alleges he abused upward of 50 children, and the prosecutor said Newman’s victim count might be in the hundreds. Many plaintiffs in civil suits signed non-disclosure agreements, so the full scope of the abuse remains unknown.

Newman is now serving two life sentences plus 30 years in prison.

In the last year, the case has received significant national attention, after an investigation into the camp’s history by journalists Nancy and David French.

Scores of former campers have filed lawsuits, including alleging that Kanakuk leadership received several complaints about Newman’s inappropriate conduct in the decade preceding his arrest. CEO Joe White denies these allegations, calling Newman a “master of deception.”

The Whites have been politically active for decades. Debbie Jo White has donated a total of $16,500 to Hartzler’s campaigns since 2010, the year she first ran for the House seat. Joe White donated $1,400 to Hartzler’s campaign, between 2016 and 2020.

In addition to Hartzler, the Whites have given money over the years to other Missouri politicians, including U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley.

“There’s no scenario in which Vicky Hartzler would go and campaign on wanting children to be abused at a camp,” Toder said, “But there’s no scenario in which someone would take money in which that wasn’t something that they were okay with.”

Neither Hartzler’s campaign nor the Whites responded to requests for comment.

In the GOP primary to replace Hartzler in Congress, one candidate’s connections to a state-licensed youth residential facility that’s previously been entangled in allegations of abuse has become a source of criticism.

Home Court Advantage is a youth residential facility in Bolivar, which is contracted with the state to provide care to girls and boys between the ages of 8 and 21 who have psychiatric and behavioral issues.

Kalena Bruce, a certified public accountant who is running in the 4th Congressional District race, has been the registered agent for Home Court Advantage since 2017, according to business filings. She has also received donations from the facility’s owner, who also served on the host committee for an April fundraiser for Bruce that Parson also attended.

In 2017, the facility made headlines after a video surfaced depicting staff allegedly beating a student the year before. Intake was temporarily suspended at the facility as state officials launched an investigation.

Two facility staff were later sentenced to two years of probation, ordered to pay $300 to a county law enforcement restitution fund and do community service after pleading guilty to third degree assault and failure to report child abuse as a mandated reporter, according to the Bolivar Herald Free-Press. A civil suit brought by a former student was also dismissed in 2019 after a settlement was reached.

According to a list the Department of Social Services gave to state lawmakers last year, two of Home Court Advantages’ locations had five preponderance of evidence findings between 2015 to 2020 — three for neglect and two for physical abuse.

Jack McCrimmon, Home Court Advantage’s owner, previously told The Independent he recalled three incidents, but not five. He did not respond to a request for comment last week.

Bruce’s connection to Home Court Advantage drew a rebuke from Burks, who said “it’s incredibly disturbing” that facilities that have faced allegations of abuse exist in the 4th Congressional District. Voters, he said, need to know about politicians’ connections to them.

“It’s disgusting if there’s a candidate who has close business relationships with places that abuse children,” Burks said.

Growing up in the area, Bruce said she’s known of Home Court Advantage’s work, and interned at a business through college that did payroll and accounting work for them. When she opened up her own firm, she inherited their business.

Bruce said she never saw the video of the incident that arose in 2017, but that community members viewed it as an issue spawning from individual employees’ actions.

“Of course any individual in any organization or business that’s found responsible of wrongdoing should be held accountable,” Bruce said. “But to try to attack my character because of the actions of a few individuals who worked at one of my clients’ businesses is desperate, deceitful, and exactly what’s wrong with politics today.”

Bruce said over 19,000 kids have passed through Home Court Advantage over the past two decades, with 85% of those kids going on to graduate from high school, attend technical schools “and becoming contributing members of society.”

“Quite frankly, I’m proud of the work that this state-contracted organization does to provide a safe place for deeply troubled children,” Bruce said, noting that unlike Agape and Circle of Hope, state-licensed facilities like Home Court Advantage have to meet licensing requirements.

Bruce has also received donations from Gaither, the Cedar County prosecuting attorney. She said she couldn’t speak to the handling of Agape, and that the courts will come to the right decision.

Bucklin, who finds time to make calls and contact officials about Agape after long shifts at the hospital where he works, often wonders when the school’s doors will ever be shut. That, he said, is what will bring him peace of mind.

“To be silent is to take the side of those who have committed barbaric and heinous crimes against children,” Bucklin said. “At least say something.”

Missouri Independent is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Missouri Independent maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jason Hancock for questions: info@missouriindependent.com. Follow Missouri Independent on Facebook and Twitter.

GOP eyes amending Missouri constitution to ensure no right to abortion exists post-Roe

If a draft U.S. Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade holds true, nearly all abortions in Missouri would become illegal.

But anti-abortion advocates worry the ban would be swiftly met with lawsuits. They hope the leaked U.S. Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe will jumpstart efforts to place a proposal on the statewide ballot declaring the right to an abortion doesn’t exist in Missouri’s constitution.

“I think we should make it clear, and I think let the voters decide whether they want to make it clear,” said Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, “that there is no right to abortion in the Missouri Constitution.”

Proposed constitutional amendments have been introduced this session, but they’ve gotten little attention and face long odds of success with the legislature set to adjourn in less than two weeks.

If the U.S. Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade, in whole or in part, then the attorney general, governor or General Assembly could take the step to enact the ban on abortions by issuing an opinion, proclamation or concurrent resolution, respectively.

Passed in 2019, House Bill 126 contained what is often referred to as a “trigger ban” that would bar abortions in Missouri except in the cases of a medical emergency. It includes no exceptions for rape or incest.

Healthcare providers who violate the provision would be guilty of a class B felony, which can result in five to 15 years in prison, and have their medical license suspended or revoked.

Some of the law’s provisions, including a ban on abortion at eight weeks, are currently blocked while the the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals weighs a challenge to those statutes.

The trigger ban is not among the blocked provisions.

Attorney General Eric Schmitt said in a statement Tuesday that he’s encouraged by the draft opinion and would move to enforce the trigger ban.

“If we’re successful and Roe v. Wade is overturned,” Schmitt said, “I’m prepared to immediately issue the opinion that would protect the unborn in Missouri.”

If Missouri’s ban on nearly all abortions were to go into effect, Sam Lee, a lobbyist for Campaign Life Missouri, said he expects there would likely be a court challenge asserting a right to abortion in Missouri’s constitution or challenging whether the U.S. Supreme Court decision truly overruled Roe v. Wade “restoring or granting to the state of Missouri the authority to regulate abortion” as the trigger ban stipulates.

“And that would be a whole separate battle from what the U.S. Supreme Court might do with the Mississippi case,” Lee said. “So I think even more than ever, we’d like to see that passed and on the ballot this year.”

Two constitutional amendments proposed this session would give voters the option to amend Missouri’s constitution to make clear that nothing in it shall be interpreted “to secure or protect a right to abortion, or to require the funding of abortion by taxpayers or by any other means.”

Both the House and Senate versions have yet to be debated and voted out of their respective chambers. With less than two weeks left in the legislative session, there’s little time for a proposed constitutional amendment to make its way through the legislature.

Onder, one of the bill sponsors, said it should be a priority in the session’s final days with a court challenge likely inevitable.

“It’s something we should push through,” Onder said, “and if not, I think the governor ought to call us into special session to do it.”

A spokeswoman for the governor did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Lee said if the Missouri Supreme Court were to find a right to abortion in Missouri’s constitution, it could jeopordize a wide range of state statutes restricting access to the procedure.

“It just takes four votes over there for the Missouri Supreme Court to find a right to abortion,” Lee said. “And then we’re back to square one. And depending on how it reads, all of our laws could be at risk — our parental consent law, our restrictions on funding for abortion.”

Meanwhile, former Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, warned forms of birth control would be illegal if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned, pointing to the fact that Missouri law stipulates that life begins at conception.

Rep. Adam Schnelting, R-St. Charles, was the amendment sponsor of the trigger ban when it was approved in the 2019 bill. Schnelting said he was hopeful but hesitant to celebrate since the Supreme Court decision was simply a draft ruling that had been leaked.

“I hope the court rules in our favor. And I hope that it means that Roe’s overturned,” Schnelting said. “You’re talking about human life.”

The draft opinion, a major break from the closely guarded deliberative process of the nation’s highest court, is still subject to change before the U.S. Supreme Court issues a final ruling expected this summer. For now, abortions are still permitted in Missouri under current state laws.

Yamelsie Rodríguez, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said the draft opinion “previews what we’ve long been preparing for.”

“We knew this opinion was coming and while it’s not official, it brings us one step closer to an impending public health crisis,” Rodríguez said.

In Missouri only one remaining clinic, a Planned Parenthood affiliate in St. Louis, provides abortions and most residents travel out-of-state to access the procedure. In 2020, nearly 9,800 Missourians traveled to neighboring Kansas and Illinois to receive abortions — compared to only 167 procedures that occurred within Missouri that year.

Emily Wales, the interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which operates clinics in Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and Oklahoma, said “the dominoes are falling” in terms of access to abortion.

In Kansas, voters will be asked this August whether to amend the state’s constitution to reverse a Kansas Supreme Court decision that found women had a constitutional right to abortion in the state. While the vote will not ban abortions, observers expect restrictions would soon follow if the right to an abortion is overturned.

Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma are among 13 states that have trigger laws in place if Roe v. Wade is overturned, and Wales said “it would mean an immediate loss of their constitutional protections.”

While Planned Parenthood is no stranger to adapting to new restrictions and frequently challenges them themselves, “the difference is that now rather than going to court and feeling confident that a court will intervene and overturn an unconstitutional law, we know that the courts are not the backstop,” Wales said.

Rodríguez urged patients to continue to continue to access abortions while it is still legal.

“No matter what, with our partners, we will fight for what little is left of abortion access in Missouri and push forward to expand in Illinois where abortion access is protected beyond Roe,” Rodríguez said.

Missouri Independent is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Missouri Independent maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jason Hancock for questions: info@missouriindependent.com. Follow Missouri Independent on Facebook and Twitter.