Sen. Andrew Koenig and Rep. Hannah Kelly Introduce Legislation to Add “Protect Children First” Amendment to the Missouri Constitution

JEFFERSON CITY — State Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester, and Rep. Hannah Kelly, R-Mountain Grove, have introduced identical joint resolutions that would add a “Protect Children First” amendment to the Missouri Constitution.

“Missouri strongly believes in protecting our children, born and unborn, and we think it is about time that this is reflected in our state constitution – specifically in our state’s Bill of Rights,” said Sen. Koenig.

Senator Koenig’s Senate Joint Resolution 52 and Rep. Kelly’s House Joint Resolution 138 would place in the constitution: It is the public policy of the state of Missouri to give special consideration to the care of our children, born and unborn, especially those children who are orphans or children in foster care, and those children who are victims of abuse.” It authorizes the Missouri General Assembly “to enact laws and make appropriations to carry out the provisions of this section.”

Both lawmakers also noted that the governor last year consolidated several early childhood programs across state government into a single Office of Childhood. “Public officials at every level of government should be working hard to change laws and appropriate funds to help parents provide stable home lives for their children,” Rep. Kelly stated.

If either SJR 52 or HJR 138 is approved by the Missouri General Assembly, the measure would be placed on the upcoming November general election ballot, unless the governor sets the election for an earlier date, such as the August primary.

Both Sen. Koenig and Rep. Kelly have been foster parents and are adoptive parents. They have also sponsored, handled, voted for or helped pass legislation to protect vulnerable children, such as last year’s House Bill 429, which increased protection of abandoned children and created tax deductions for foster care expenses. Representative Kelly was also the sponsor and Sen. Koenig was the handler of last year’s House Bill 430, which boosted adoption tax credits and increased tax credits for donations to domestic violence shelters and maternity homes where children stay with their parents.

In 2021, Rep. Kelly was also the sponsor of an omnibus bill House Bill 432 to protect vulnerable persons – including assistance to homeless youth, helping children who need hearing aids, keeping registered sex offenders away from children and establishing “newborn safety incubators” for abandoned infants.

Both lawmakers are strongly pro-life and believe, as the proposed amendment states, that “our children are our future, and they are a blessing and gift from Almighty God.”

“Almighty God” is mentioned elsewhere in the constitution, in Article I, Section 5, which is the “right to worship” provision in the state’s Bill of Rights that was amended by voters in August 2012 by an 83% margin to allow voluntary prayer in schools and public places.

The amendment would also protect unborn children by making the Missouri Constitution “abortion neutral” and provide that nothing in the constitution would “require the funding of abortion by taxpayers or by any other means.” The Missouri General Assembly would be authorized to set abortion policy and determine the extent of funding for abortions.

In 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court found a right to abortion in their state’s constitution. Kansas voters in August will consider a “Value Them Both” ballot measure, which would undo that court ruling. The Iowa Supreme Court in 2018 also found a right to abortion in that state’s constitution, which Iowa’s governor and legislators are trying to undo.

“If Roe v. Wade is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, pro-abortion groups already have a strategy in place to get state supreme court judges to find a right to an abortion in state constitutions,” Sen. Koenig noted.  “We want the voters in Missouri to preempt activist judges in our state who might be tempted to do what Kansas and Iowa judges did, by making it clear that nothing in our constitution is for or against abortion or for or against the funding of abortion.”