KC City Council votes to reimburse city employees for travel to get abortions

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Kansas City Council voted Thursday to find a way to reimburse city employees for travel expenses to get an abortion out of state. 

Similarly, a St. Louis County committee on Tuesday advanced a bill to allocate $1 million of American Rescue Plan Act funds to helping women residents, not just government employees, get abortions across the river in Illinois.

The moves, which the Missouri attorney general quickly declared illegal, are in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last week overturning Roe v. Wade, and the ensuing trigger law in Missouri that banned most abortions immediately. 

The Missouri ban, passed in 2019, was triggered by the court’s June 24 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision.

The KC council directed the city manager to negotiate health insurance changes to ensure city employees are covered for FDA-approved contraception options – and are reimbursed for abortion-related travel expenses. Each employee or dependent is eligible for one reimbursement per fiscal year. 

Attorney General Eric Schmitt promised legal action against any city taking such actions.

“Using hard-earned taxpayer dollars, whether it be ARPA funds or other forms of revenue, to fund abortion is plainly illegal under Missouri law,” Schmitt said Friday in a press release. “St. Louis City and County, and Kansas City, and any others who attempt to authorize taxpayer-funded abortions will be met with a lawsuit from the Missouri Attorney General’s office.”

Although the Kansas City ordinance says reimbursements will not be funded with taxpayer dollars, it is still unclear on how the city will actually fund them – and it seems like the city hasn’t figured that part out yet either.

The Heartlander reached out to the city to find out, but instead of answering the question of where the money for the reimbursements will come from, the below statement was sent:

The City Manager will be exploring amendments to our travel reimbursement AR (3-03) to specifically include travel reimbursement for up to $300 if travel in excess of 30 miles is required to access healthcare treatment that is covered under our plan but not available locally.  The City is committed to ensuring all our employees have access to all of the treatments and procedures needed and included in our healthcare plans without barriers, even if those treatments are no longer available within City limits.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas seemed to indicate city employees’ healthcare premiums could rise, and that would be the sole funding source of the new benefits. 

The KC Council resolution passed by a 10-2 vote, with Councilmembers Dan Fowler and Heather Hall being the sole “no” votes. Fowler said he believes the measure should have gone through the committee process so everyone could have been more informed. 

“I thought it would be much more beneficial for the committee process to be used to bring that out so everybody had a fuller understanding,” Fowler told KMBC. “I don’t know [if] we can do some of this stuff,” he said during debate on the measure.

The council also passed an ordinance declaring that abortions “are fundamental human rights and criminalizing access to reproductive rights is a form of discrimination against women, girls and others who can become pregnant.”

“I think abortion is very harsh,” state Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, told The Heartlander in May. “It’s an incredibly violent solution that doesn’t recognize that there are two people involved in every abortion. I believe that our job is to make abortion not just illegal, but unthinkable.”

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