Federal judge blocks 8-week abortion law in Missouri

Federal judge blocks 8-week abortion law in Missouri
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A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked a Missouri law banning abortions after eight weeks, one of the most restrictive proposals nationwide.

The law, which included no exceptions for rape and incest, was signed by Gov. Mike Parson (R) in May and was set to take effect Wednesday.

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Critics of the measure, such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Planned Parenthood, who filed the challenge, noted that many women do not know they are pregnant at eight weeks and that the law functioned as an outright abortion ban.

"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, a Carter appointee, wrote in an 11-page opinion.

Similar laws in Mississippi and Kentucky have been blocked by the courts this year.

State legislatures and governors are passing abortion restrictions in an attempt to get the Supreme Court to revisit Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that established a woman's right to an abortion.

Missouri's law would have punished medical professionals with up to 15 years in prison for performing abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy.

The law only included exemptions for "medical emergencies." 

Sachs wrote in his ruling that the law conflicts with Supreme Court precedent, which said that states could not interfere with a woman's right to abortion until a fetus is viable after 24 weeks of pregnancy.

"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 wrote.

“Today’s decision blocks a harmful law that bans abortion before many know they’re pregnant," said Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president of Planned Parenthood. "What little abortion access in Missouri is left will stay in place for the time being."

Provisions of the law that ban abortions for reasons of race, gender or Down Syndrome will still take effect tomorrow, but could be overturned once the full case is litigated.

"We cannot ignore the part of this law that remains in place, which allows politicians to interfere with the patient-provider relationship," McGill Johnson said.

"Let’s be very clear: these severe restrictions on abortion access do nothing to address disability rights or discrimination. They only stigmatize abortion and shame the people who seek that care."

Updated at 2:36 p.m.