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Federal Judge Blocks Missouri’s 8-Week Abortion Ban

August 27, 2019 by Dan McCue
Protesters opposed to Missouri's restrictive abortion law gather at the St. Louis arch and march to Gov. Mike Parson's office. (Jill Toyoshiba/Kansas City Star/TNS)

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 Republican Gov. Mike Parson in May and was set to take effect Wednesday. Similar laws have been struck down in North Dakota and Iowa.

U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs put the law on hold to allow the legal challenge against it to play out in court.

“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,” Judge Sachs wrote in an 11-page opinion.

“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,” Sachs wrote.

Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri filed the lawsuit shortly after Parson signed the abortion bill into law, arguing it was unconstitutional and violated the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide.

Attorneys for the state have made several arguments about why the law should stand.

Initially they said lawmakers’ goal in passing the restrictions was to protect fetal life and protect women. Then they came back and said courts have allowed limits on abortions based on the gestational age of the fetus.

Most recently, on Monday, Missouri Solicitor General John Sauer simply argued that the plaintiffs do not have standing to challenge the law.

Federal law allows states to prohibit abortions after fetuses are viable outside the womb, which can be from 24 to 28 weeks.

Missouri already has some of the nation’s most restrictive abortion regulations. Just one clinic in the state performs abortions.

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