Judge Blocks Missouri's 8-Week Abortion Ban From Going Into Effect

Andrea González-Ramírez

Update: A federal judge blocked Missouri's eight-week abortion ban from going into effect on Tuesday.

"The various sections specifying prohibitions on abortions at various weeks prior to viability cannot be allowed to go into effect on August 28, as scheduled," U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs wrote in an 11-page opinion, according to CNN.

"However formulated, the legislation on its face conflicts with the Supreme Court ruling that neither legislative or judicial limits on abortion can be measured by specified weeks or development of a fetus; instead, 'viability' is the sole test for a State's authority to prohibit abortions where there is no maternal health issue," he continued.

Two federal judges blocked similar restrictions in Arkansas and Ohio earlier this summer.

This story was originally published on May 24, 2019.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed a measure into law banning abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for cases of rape or incest. House Bill 126, known as the Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act, makes it a felony to perform abortions after the eight-week mark. Doctors who offer abortions at or after that stage could face five to 15 years in prison. The measure is meant to go into effect on August 28, 2019, although it's expected to be challenged in court.

HB 126 is part of a larger wave of anti-choice legislation that has been passing at the state level with the goal of overturning or undermining Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

More than a dozen states are considering banning abortions as soon as a "fetal heartbeat" is detected, which typically happens at around six weeks of gestation, before many women know they're pregnant. Four states — Kentucky, Mississippi, Georgia and Ohio — have signed those bills into law in the past few months. Last week, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law a measure that bans abortion at any stage of gestation, except in cases in which the woman's life is in danger. These early abortion bans are unconstitutional due to Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld a woman's right to choose an abortion before viability. (Researchers say a fetus is not considered viable until around 22 weeks of pregnancy.) The extreme anti-choice measures are also part of a larger trend: In the first three months of 2019, anti-choice lawmakers in 41 states introduced over 250 bills restricting access to abortion care.

"Gov. Parson has put the health and lives of Missouri women at risk in his race to make our state the one that overturns Roe v. Wade at the Supreme Court. The vast majority of Missourians oppose attempts to undercut Roe and do not want politicians interfering in the doctor-patient relationship," M’Evie Mead, director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Missouri, said in a statement provided to Refinery29. "These bans on safe, legal abortion will have real costs — expensive legal costs and human costs for the women and families who need reproductive healthcare."

Missouri ranks #41 nationwide when it comes to healthcare, according to a U.S. News & World Report ranking published this month. Missourians already face many roadblocks in obtaining access to abortion care: There is currently only one abortion provider left in the entire state. Abortions are currently banned in Missouri after 24 weeks of gestation, and women seeking to terminate their pregnancies must undergo a 72-hour waiting period before they can access the procedure.

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