Court Blocks Missouri Abortion Ban, But State Will Take Fight to Protect Babies to SCOTUS

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Jun 9, 2021   |   3:16PM   |   Jefferson City, Missouri

A federal appeals court upheld a block on a Missouri law Wednesday that would protect unborn babies from abortion as early as eight weeks of pregnancy.

The Hill reports an Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals panel agreed that the law likely would be found unconstitutional and rejected an appeal from the state.

The Missouri Stands For the Unborn Act prohibits abortions after eight weeks, once an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable. However, it also includes incremental stages to ban abortions after 14 weeks, 18 weeks or 20 weeks if the earlier bans are overturned. In addition, it requires that both parents be notified before an underage girl has an abortion.

It also includes a ban on discriminatory abortions based on an unborn baby’s sex, race or Down syndrome diagnosis, as well as a complete abortion ban once Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Gov. Mike Parson signed it into law in 2019, but most of the provisions have never gone into effect because of court orders.

In 2019, U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs blocked the state from enforcing the pro-life law after Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region sued.

Then on Wednesday, the Eighth Circuit agreed with Sachs that “the Gestational Age Provisions are bans, and we agree with the district court that [Planned Parenthood] is likely to succeed on the merits of this claim.”

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The American Civil Liberties Union, which also is involved in the lawsuit, argued that the pro-life law would ban “the vast majority of pre-viability abortions” and prevent women from accessing “medical care,” the AP reported previously.

Responding to the ruling, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said he will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Kansas City Star reports.

Schmitt said his son, Stephen, who has autism and other special needs, is one of the reasons why he fights so strongly for unborn babies’ right to life.

“My son Stephen has shown me the inherent beauty and dignity in all life, especially those with special needs,” he said in a statement. “I have never and will never stop fighting to ensure that all life is protected.”

Meanwhile, abortion activists celebrated the ruling, calling it a “critical victory” for Missouri.

“For now, we celebrate our continued ability to provide safe, legal abortion at the last remaining clinic in Missouri,” said Yamelsie Rodríguez, president of the St. Louis area Planned Parenthood. “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 U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to hear a challenge to a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks. The Mississippi case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization focuses on the question of “whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortion are unconstitutional.” The court is scheduled to hear the case during its next term, likely in the fall.

In 1973, the Supreme Court took away states’ ability to protect unborn babies from abortion through Roe v. Wade, and instead allowed abortion on demand through all nine months of pregnancy. Roe made the United States one of only seven countries in the world that allows elective abortions after 20 weeks.

According to the Missouri health department, 3,903 abortions were done in the state in 2017, and 119 of those were babies killed after 20 weeks.

A 2019 poll by the Susan B. Anthony List found that 82 percent of Missouri voters – including 66 percent of Democrats, 83 percent of independents, 83 percent of women, and 61 percent of self-described pro-choice voters – support a law prohibiting late-term abortions (only 18 percent support allowing late-term abortions).

SBA List state policy director Sue Liebel said the ruling Wednesday was disappointing, especially as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear a challenge to a similar law.

“Missouri lawmakers acted on the will of the people when they enacted some of the nation’s strongest protections for the unborn and their mothers in 2019,” Liebel said. “Since then, many other states have added to the groundswell of pro-life legislation enacted in recent years, with almost 500 bills introduced this year alone – 89 of them enacted in law. Americans reject the extreme status quo of abortion on demand through birth and are eager to humanize our laws.”