JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – After a long day of negotiations that ran late into the night, Republicans in the Missouri Senate moved early Thursday to advance what would be one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.
The bill approved 24-10 on a party-line vote after 4 a.m. CDT would ban abortions eight weeks into a pregnancy, which opponents say is before many women even know they're pregnant.
The only exception would be a medical emergency that could lead to the death or irreversible impairment of the mother. Doctors who violate the ban could lose their medical licenses and go to prison for up to 15 years.
The measure now heads back to the House, which easily passed an earlier version in February, for a final vote. Once approved, it will head to Republican Gov. Mike Parson, who has indicated he will sign it.
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"My administration will execute the laws the Legislature passes," Parson told reporters and abortion opponents at a campaign-style rally in his office Wednesday evening. "And this pro-life administration will not back down."
The aggressive move to curtail access to abortion in the state follows similar actions in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio that have garnered national attention and could fuel a challenge to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal nationwide.
The state will almost certainly be sued over the legislation, and federal judges have struck down similar laws in Iowa, Kentucky and North Dakota. Legal challenges are pending or planned against other states that have passed similar legislation.
Republicans were undaunted Thursday.
“Together we stand as one to defend the unborn," Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden told reporters after the vote.
Democrats harshly criticized that take.
Despite peripheral changes to the bill Republicans negotiated with Democrats to avoid having to force a vote over a filibuster, Democratic state Sen. Jill Schupp said the bill remained "an extreme and egregious piece of legislation that puts women’s health at risk.”
She also called it "outrageous" that the bill had no exemptions for victims of human trafficking, rape or incest.
But Rowden deflected those concerns, telling reporters the bill passed "represents what we believe is ... unquestionably the position of a vast majority of the people of Missouri."
And other Republicans said they're confident the bill will stand up to judicial scrutiny.
Rep. Nick Schroer’s bill notably includes additional restrictions that could remain in place even if the eight-week ban is struck down, including provisions that would restrict abortions later in pregnancy and prohibit abortions based on the sex, race or Down syndrome diagnosis of a fetus.
If courts don’t allow Missouri’s proposed eight-week ban to take effect, it includes a ladder of less-restrictive time limits ranging from 14 to 20 weeks. Roe v. Wade legalized abortion up until viability, usually at 22 to 24 weeks.
“This is the type of legislation designed to withstand a challenge," House Speaker Elijah Haahr, a Republican, said Wednesday evening.
The bill also would require that both parents be notified for a minor to get an abortion, with exceptions. A change made after hours of late-night negotiations means written notification is required only if the second parent has joint legal or physical custody of the minor.
Current law requires written consent from only one parent.
If ultimately passed, the new rules will add to an already considerable arsenal of restrictions that have left Missouri with a single abortion clinic, a Planned Parenthood in St. Louis.
The women’s health organization's lobbying arm condemned the Senate's decision Thursday morning.
"Politicians are putting the health and lives of Missouri women at risk in their race to make our state the one that overturns Roe v. Wade at the Supreme Court," M’Evie Mead, director of policy and organizing for Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri, said in a statement. "These bans on safe, legal abortion will have real costs – expensive legal costs and human costs for the women and families who need reproductive health care."
Planned Parenthood also has clinics in Springfield and Joplin that provide health care services, but no abortions.
Efforts to offer medication abortions in southwest Missouri were put on hold by a battery of restrictions passed in a 2017 special session.
Contributing: The Associated Press. Follow Austin Huguelet on Twitter: @ahuguelet
This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Missouri Senate passes bill to ban abortions at 8 weeks