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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (ChurchMilitant.com) - The archbishop of St. Louis is making good on his promise to fight a city ordinance that forces the archdiocese to support abortion and contraception.
On Monday, Abp. Robert Carlson and two other groups represented by St. Thomas More Society (STMS) sued the city of St. Louis, Missouri, in U.S. District Court over city ordinance 70459, which extends protected class status to abortion advocates.
In January, Abp. Carlson described the "terrible consequences" Catholic institutions would suffer as a result of the ordinance. "[A] Catholic school or Catholic Charities agency could be fined by the City of St. Louis for not employing persons who publicly promote practices such as abortion," said the archbishop. "In addition, our Catholic institutions could be fined for not including coverage for abortion in their insurance plans."
The ordinance enacted in February was introduced as Board Bill 203 last December. It added "persons or entities" who make "reproductive health decisions" favoring abortion and contraception to the city's 2006 anti-discrimination law. The legislation protects such individuals or groups from so-called "discrimination" by employers or landlords based on "any decision related to the use or intended use of a particular drug, device or medical service, including the use or intended use of contraception or fertility control or the planned or intended initiation or termination of a pregnancy."
Back in January, the archbishop noted the ordinance would "force the people of St. Louis to be complicit" in procuring abortions. "Board Bill 203 could also allow the city of St. Louis to fine landlords and others who do not want to rent to or be associated with the abortion industry," said the archbishop.
Alderman Megan Green, who introduced the bill, admitted there wasn't an immediate need for the law as such discrimination didn't exist but said she sponsored the legislation in anticipation of Donald Trump's presidency and because Republicans had been elected to the state congress. "With a Trump presidency and a Republican supermajority in Jefferson City, attacks on women's rights are real," she claimed.
A press conference announcing the lawsuit was held Monday at which Sarah Pitlyk, special counsel for STMS, affirmed that sponsors of the ordinance were unable to point to the actual occurrence of any such discrimination in the city of St. Louis. Pitlyk called the bill "a remedy in search of a problem."
She explained the ordinance takes protections normally afforded to typical classes of people and extends them to those, who advocate for abortion and contraception. "The city has taken the protections typically granted to prevent discrimination for 'race, age, religion, sex or disability' and applied them to those who have made or expect to make 'reproductive health decisions,' where 'reproductive health decisions' is so overbroad as to include any decision that is any way related to contraceptive use or abortion.
One of the institutions that joined the archdiocese in their lawsuit was Our Lady's Inn, who provides a home for pregnant women. Speaking of this faith-based organization, Pitlyk added, "The law would therefore force nonprofit organizations like Our Lady's Inn, whose mission is to promote and facilitate abortion alternatives, to hire abortion advocates, despite their opposition to the ministry's reason for existence."
The archbishop has been adamant that Catholics under his care wouldn't cooperate with the proposed ordinance:
As the shepherd of the faithful Catholics of this region, let me be clear that the archdiocese of St. Louis cannot and will not comply with any ordinance like Board Bill 203 that attempts to force the Church and others to become unwilling participants in the abortion business. There is no room for compromise on such a matter.
At Monday's press conference, Pitlyk decried the ordinance as being in direct violation of "both federal and state law." She added, "we fully expect the court to invalidate it."