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Federal appeals court blocks sweeping Missouri abortion ban

A federal appeals court blocked a sweeping Missouri law that would place tight restrictions on abortion in the state.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a ruling Wednesday upheld a lower court’s injunction of the law, which would ban the procedure after eight weeks of pregnancy. The statute also specifies that an abortion cannot be performed “solely because of a prenatal diagnosis” indicating a child might have Down syndrome.

The three-judge panel ruled that Missouri's law amounted to a ban, rather than a restriction, on the procedure.

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“[T]here is nothing an individual in Missouri could lawfully do to obtain an abortion at or after the applicable gestational age cut-off,” the court wrote.

“[T]he Gestational Age Provisions are bans, and we agree with the district court that RHS is likely to succeed on the merits of this claim,” the court added, referencing the plaintiff, Reproductive Health Services, which operates a St. Louis abortion clinic.

The court added that the prenatal diagnosis provision also amounted to a ban, calling it “categorically unconstitutional.”

Abortion rights advocates hailed the ruling as a victory as a slate of GOP-led states across the country move forward with restrictions on the procedure.

“Today’s decision is a critical victory for Missourians,” said Yamelsie Rodríguez, president of Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region. “For now, we celebrate our continued ability to provide safe, legal abortion at the last remaining clinic in Missouri. We know this fight is not over, especially with a direct challenge to Roe before the Supreme Court. Planned Parenthood will not back down — today is proof enough.”

The ruling comes amid a national effort by conservatives to push the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that first legalized abortions.

Numerous states have pushed restrictions with the goal of triggering a court battle that could make it to the Supreme Court.

Conservatives scored a victory in May when the Supreme Court agreed to take up a dispute over a Mississippi law that bans virtually all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with anti-abortion advocates saying the new 6-3 conservative majority provides a historic opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade.