Fact check: Plan B still legal in Missouri as Supreme Court considers fate of Roe v. Wade
The claim: Plan B banned in Missouri
A leaked draft of a Supreme Court decision that would overturn the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which established a constitutional right to abortion, triggered an influx of claims about reproductive rights as many around the country grappled with the implications of their potential overhaul nearly 50 years after Roe.
Politico first reported the leaked draft on May 2. The high court confirmed the draft’s authenticity the following day, when Chief Justice John Roberts announced an investigation into the source of the leak.
One of the post-leak claims focused on Missouri, which earlier this year heard proposals from lawmakers seeking to allow lawsuits against residents who cross state lines to get an abortion and criminalize terminating non-viable pregnancies.
“They just banned plan B’s in Missouri,” read one May 8 Facebook post that was shared more than 200 times in one day.
The claim also gained traction when former Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, expressed concern about the draft opinion and claimed in a May 3 tweet that "even morning after pill, IUD will be illegal" if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
Plan B pills are used as emergency birth control and work to prevent pregnancy primarily by delaying or preventing ovulation.
But there is no ban on using these pills in Missouri.
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The pill was still available for pickup in pharmacies around Missouri as of May 16, according to a USA TODAY review of pharmacy offerings. Even if Roe v. Wade were overturned, Missouri’s "trigger law" does not explicitly mention or ban Plan B.
USA TODAY reached out to the user who shared the claim for comment.
'Trigger law' doesn’t explicitly ban Plan B, other contraception
Even if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned, Missouri’s existing abortion law does not explicitly ban Plan B or other forms of contraception, said Rigel Oliveri, a law professor at the University of Missouri.
“Some more action would have to be taken in order for people to start assuming Plan B is covered by the abortion law – that is not an obvious reading of it,” Oliveri said.
Both St. Louis Public Radio and The Kansas City Star reported that Plan B and other forms of contraception would not be immediately affected if the law were to go into effect upon an overruling of Roe v. Wade.
Check Your Fact and Lead Stories also debunked the claim of a Plan B ban in Missouri.
But Oliveri said Plan B and similar pills could become a key point of debate.
She said most consider Plan B to be contraception and not a form of medication abortion, but it’s possible some could “try to push the law to cover that and prohibit that.” At that point, Oliveri said courts would have to decide whether such a measure is a valid interpretation of the law.
More: What the end of Roe v. Wade could mean in a nation without child care aid or family leave
Missouri's "trigger" ban, which is part of a 2019 bill that has been tied up in federal litigation, prohibits abortion except in cases of a medical emergency. But Oliveri said its language leaves room for lawmakers and prosecutors to “stretch the definition of what (abortion) means.”
Another concern Oliveri said people have is that from the “logic and the reasoning of the opinion it’s very clear that it could equally apply” to cases such as Griswold v. Connecticut and Eisenstadt v. Baird, which expanded rights to contraception.
Draft opinion fallout: Could rights to same-sex marriage, contraception be next?
The draft noted that Roe v. Wade was based on the idea that the right to have an abortion is part of a fundamental right to privacy, neither of which is explicitly mentioned in the Constitution. Oliveri said contraception can be described the same way.
Our rating: False
Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that Plan B is banned in Missouri. The pills are still available for purchase in pharmacies around the state, and its "trigger law" does not directly mention or ban Plan B in the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned.
Our fact-check sources:
- Rigel Oliveri, May 16, Interview with USA TODAY
- Missouri Revisor of Statutes, accessed May 16, Right to Life of the Unborn Child Act
- Oyez, accessed May 16, Griswold v. Connecticut
- Oyez, accessed May 16, Eisenstadt v. Baird
- Gerbes Super Market, accessed May 16, Plan B One-Step Emergency Contraceptive
- Walgreens, accessed May 16, Plan B One-Step Emergency Contraceptive
- CVS, accessed May 16, Plan B One-Step Emergency Contraceptive Tablet
- Lead Stories, May 10, Fact Check: Tennessee, Missouri Are NOT Banning Plan B, Other Emergency Contraceptive Pills
- The Kansas City Star, May 10, No, Missouri’s abortion ‘trigger’ law doesn’t ban Plan B, birth control or IVF, experts say
- Check Your Fact, May 9,Fact Check: Has Plan B Been Banned in Missouri?
- St. Louis Public Radio, May 6, Missouri’s ‘trigger law’ is ready for Roe’s demise. What happens then?
- Springfield News-Leader, May 3, Abortion is still legal in Missouri. Here's what could happen if Roe v. Wade is overturned
- Politico, May 2, Supreme Court has voted to overturn abortion rights, draft opinion shows
- Springfield News-Leader, March 11, Missouri anti-abortion bills seek to stop crossing of state lines, ending ectopic pregnancies
- USA TODAY, May 4, What to know about Supreme Court abortion case leak: Ex-Army lawyer leads investigation as questions swirl
- Washington Post, May 29, 2020, Missouri’s last abortion clinic will stay open after ruling ends contentious year-long legal battle
- USA TODAY, May 3, Supreme Court verifies authenticity of leaked opinion in abortion case but says decision not final
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