The day before Missouri’s eight-week abortion ban—one of the nation’s most restrictive laws governing the medical procedure—was due to go into effect, a federal court blocked it.
On Tuesday (August 27), Judge Howard Sachs of the United States Courts Western District of Missouri released an 11-page opinion that reads in part:
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.
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.
The law, called the Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act, was signed by Governor Michael Parsons on May 24. There are no exceptions for people who became pregnant as a result of rape or incest.
In response, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri sued the state of Missouri, saying the law was unconstitutional and contrary to the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which legalized abortion nationally in 1973.
While the eight-week ban was blocked, other parts of the law were upheld. Reports CBS News:
Doctors at Planned Parenthood of St. Louis, the last remaining abortion clinic in the state, will need to adhere to a so-called “reason” ban, a law that prohibits women from terminating pregnancies based solely on race, sex or a “prenatal diagnosis, test or screening indicating Down Syndrome or the potential of Down Syndrome.”
In a statement, Dr. Colleen McNicholas, the chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood of St. Louis, wrote that the “reason” ban will require doctors to “interrogate patients.” She continued:
Missourians do not need or want politicians in their exam rooms. My patients deserve access to high-quality abortion care, and they deserve the space to make those decisions based on their values, life circumstances, support system and faith, free of government scrutiny.
Missouri is now one of nine states that prohibits abortion for reasons of sex selection, reports CBS News. But it’s the only one that bans it based on the outcome of genetic tests for conditions such as Down Syndrome. Arizona also bans race-based abortions.
Elizabeth Nash, a senior state policy researcher at the Guttmacher Institute, said in interview with CBS News, “Abortion opponents have used these bans to not only make abortion less accessible, but have tried to use these kinds of bans as a wedge issue to divide the progressive community by targeting African Americans, Asians, immigrants and those with disabilities.”
BBC reports that Planned Parenthood will continue to fight the “reason” ban, while state attorneys are now considering an appeal of the ruling against the eight-week ban.