JEFFERSON CITY • Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens wants lawmakers to make good on his promise that “crazy liberals” won’t be allowed to create “abortion sanctuary cities” so long as he’s in office.

In an announcement Wednesday, the first-year Republican governor ordered the House and Senate to return to the Capitol for the second special session this year to take action on an ordinance approved by St. Louis aldermen in February banning employers and landlords from discriminating against women who have had an abortion, use contraceptives or are pregnant.

He also is calling for stricter laws on abortion clinics, including annual inspections and additional planning for handling patients with complications.

 “And we’re proposing a fix that will stop abortion clinics from interfering with emergency responders,” he said in a video released on Facebook. “If a woman needs help, abortion clinics shouldn’t be able to tell an ambulance to come slowly — to not use their lights and sirens — or to go around to the back gate, just because they are worried that an ambulance arriving might make their abortion clinic look bad.”

The session is scheduled to begin Monday, but not before Greitens holds at least three campaign-style rallies in support of his initiative. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will join the governor in Springfield, Mo., and Joplin, Mo., for events on Friday. A third rally that day is expected to be held in St. Charles.

The push comes on the heels of a special session called by Greitens to approve a plan aimed at securing lower electric rates for an aluminum smelter and a steel mill looking to open in the Bootheel region.

The GOP-led Legislature, which adjourned its regular session on May 12, failed to approve a proposal during the spring that would have in effect nullified the city ordinance on the grounds that it inhibits the First Amendment rights of alternatives to abortion agencies, or clinics that counsel women against abortions.

Even though St. Louis officials exempted religious organizations under the ordinance, alternatives to abortion agencies and religious groups argue the updated ordinance could force them to hire employees who support abortion, or face fines.

In late May, the Archdiocese of St. Louis and other organizations filed suit against the city, seeking to overturn the ordinance.

Plaintiffs in the federal suit are seeking an immediate injunction against enforcement of the ordinance and its eventual invalidation as unconstitutional. Archbishop Robert Carlson vowed that the archdiocese wouldn’t adhere to the law even if that effort failed.

Greitens also wants the Legislature to address issues arising out of a separate federal case that invalidated requirements for the state’s abortion clinics to meet certain standards.

U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs said abortion rights of Missouri women were guaranteed by the U.S. Supreme Court in last year’s landmark decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which struck down similar restrictions in Texas.

The state laws are at the center of an ongoing legal challenge brought by Planned Parenthood affiliates in Missouri.

 For Greitens, the special session offers the political newcomer a chance to sharpen support from conservatives after an expensive four-way GOP primary last year that saw him beat more well-established anti-abortion candidates.

Greitens was the only Republican in the race not to be endorsed by Right to Life in the election. In March, at a rally at the Capitol, he vowed to overturn the St. Louis ordinance, calling supporters of the law “crazy liberals.”

In a statement issued Wednesday, Greitens said, “I’m proud to support life — the lives of mothers, their children and the innocent unborn.”

Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake Saint Louis, praised the governor’s order.

“I know the governor weighs very carefully the decision to call the General Assembly back for a special session. But I believe that no greater issue fits the category of extraordinary than the safety of Missourians and the protection of life and the protection of our fundamental rights as Americans,” Onder said.

 Abortion rights groups said the special session would waste taxpayer dollars during tight budget times.

“Missouri families want our leaders to focus on creating jobs and improving education, not wasting time and money on an ideological fight over abortion,” said Alison Dreith, executive director of NARAL Pro Choice Missouri.

In a statement, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said, “The city of St. Louis doesn’t support discrimination of any kind. We don’t discriminate based on whether someone is pregnant or uses birth control.”

Despite some clashes this year on ethics reform and other issues, Greitens is likely to have support for his effort from the Legislature, which has a long history of backing stringent abortion restrictions.

Earlier this year, House Speaker Todd Richardson and Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, both Republicans, vowed to Right to Life advocates that there would be no “abortion sanctuary cities” in Missouri, a term coined by conservatives to describe cities with discrimination ordinances similar to St. Louis’.

But during the first special session convened by Greitens, some senators warned against calling another, arguing that some bills simply don’t make it through the regular session but aren’t urgent enough to justify a second look at taxpayers’ expense.

The most recent special session cost an estimated $67,000 in daily expense money for lawmakers, mileage and additional staff.

The special session marks the latest attempt by Republicans who control Jefferson City to target initiatives in the Democratic stronghold of St. Louis. In one of their final acts before adjourning in May, the House and Senate voted to overturn the city’s minimum wage increase.

http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/targeting-abortion-laws-greitens-calls-another-special-session/article_88577006-65c4-547d-b601-15bb096b7de5.html