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Fashion icon Karlie Kloss emphasizes Missouri's role in national abortion rights fight

Karlie Kloss, right, speaks to voters on Monday, April 1, 2024, during a drive-in petition signing event for the Missourians for Constitutional Freedom, a group attempting to legalize abortion in the state, at Congregation Shaare Emeth in Creve Coeur.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Karlie Kloss, right, speaks to voters on Monday, April 1, 2024, during a drive-in petition signing event for the Missourians for Constitutional Freedom, a group attempting to legalize abortion in the state, at Congregation Shaare Emeth in Creve Coeur.

Kloss, who is known for her philanthropy, was in the St. Louis area to help gather signatures for an abortion legalization petition. She also participated in a ceremony officially naming a portion of Washington Avenue after her.

Webster Groves native Karlie Kloss took the modeling world by storm in the 2010s before launching a highly successful effort to connect young women with computer coding and, more recently, helping relaunch Life magazine.

On Monday, Kloss discussed another passion: her advocacy for abortion rights in Missouri and around the Midwest.

“I'm one of four daughters. I grew up here in the Midwest. My father is a physician. The idea of reproductive care was never political in my house,” Kloss said. “It's devastating to me the reality of what is happening and how it has become so politicized. Because to me, this is a conversation that belongs between an individual and their physician and an individual and their loved ones. To me, politicians should not be involved.”

Kloss helped gather signatures in Creve Coeur for the Missourians for Constitutional Freedom initiative, a measure that would legalize the procedure up to what’s known as fetal viability. That’s defined in the initiative as when medical professionals determine that a fetus could survive outside of the womb without extraordinary medical intervention.

Before Roe v. Wade was overturned in 2022, Kloss started the Gateway Coalition, which provides financial and logistical assistance to small clinics that provide abortions throughout the Midwest. She said those facilities, particularly the ones in Illinois, have become havens for people in states like Missouri where most abortions are prohibited.

“What I really realized, especially once Roe fell, was about the fragmentation of care across this country, but specifically in the Midwest,” Kloss said. “I wanted to do whatever I could, and initially focused on Illinois of just the infrastructure that exists — the independent clinics, the clinics across Illinois who are really holding up the front line.”

She called the Missourians for Constitutional Freedom initiative “an opportunity to take it to the ballot box and actually have Missourians reinstall protections in our home state.”

“So you don't have to leave Missouri to receive just the vital care that I believe every woman deserves,” Kloss said.

Kurt Kloss, 63, of Webster Groves, signs a Missourians for Constitutional Freedom-led ballot petition in an attempt to legalize abortion in Missouri, alongside volunteer Stephen Wilder, 24, on Monday, April 1, 2024, in downtown St. Louis.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Kurt Kloss, 63, of Webster Groves, signs a Missourians for Constitutional Freedom-led ballot petition in an attempt to legalize abortion in Missouri, alongside volunteer Stephen Wilder, 24, on Monday, April 1, 2024, in downtown St. Louis.

A race to early May

Since rolling out the initiative at the beginning of the year, Missourians for Constitutional Freedom has raised more than $4.5 million in contributions of more than $5,000. That includes a $50,000 donation from Kloss.

She said that the initiative can find support with a wide range of voters — pointing specificallyto polling from SLU/YouGov that showed more than 20% of Republican respondents backed the initiative.

“They see this as a human issue,” Kloss said. “And also, the fact is that the trigger ban that went into effect had no exceptions, which to me is just unacceptable.”

Kloss was referring to how Missouri’s abortion ban that went into effect in June 2022 contained no exceptions for anyone who became pregnant due to rape or incest.

If organizers get roughly 171,000 signatures all over the state, the amendment legalizing abortion could go before voters in either August or November. It’s part of a trend in other states, including Arizona and Florida, of trying to use the initiative petition process to enshrine abortion rights.

Backers have until May 5 to turn in signatures.

Kloss said there’s a reason for people everywhere to care about what’s happening in Missouri and other states with strict abortion bans.

“To me this issue is about dignity,” Kloss said. “It's about respect and an individual's bodily autonomy to decide what is right for them in their life at whatever time they need to be making that choice. And so this ban, I believe, we have a chance to overturn.”

While in town Monday, Kloss participated in a ceremony officially naming a portion of Washington Avenue after her.

Copyright 2024 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Jason Rosenbaum