ST. LOUIS — A federal judge has temporarily blocked a Missouri ban on abortions at or after eight weeks of pregnancy.
On Tuesday, District Judge Howard F. Sachs ruled that the law banning abortion at or after eight weeks or pregnancy cannot be enforced, "pending litigation or further order of the court."
Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri filed the lawsuit, arguing that the law is unconstitutional and goes against the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.
The law includes exceptions for medical emergencies, but not for rape or incest. If courts don't uphold the eight-week ban, the measure includes a series of less-restrictive bans ranging from 14 weeks up to 20 weeks. The policy also bans abortions based solely on race, sex or a diagnosis indicating the potential for Down syndrome.
Similar laws have been struck down in North Dakota and Iowa.
Attorneys for the state can appeal the judge's ruling. They argue that courts have allowed limits on abortions based on the gestational age of the fetus. In court documents, they told the judge that the state's goal is "protecting fetal life" as well as protecting women. During a court hearing Monday, Missouri Solicitor General John Sauer's argument centered on his contention that Planned Parenthood and the ACLU 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's law also includes an outright ban on abortions except in cases of medical emergencies, but that would take effect only if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
Missouri already has some of the nation's most restrictive abortion regulations. Just one clinic in the state performs abortions.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Statement from Dr. Colleen McNicholas, Chief Medical Officer, Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region:
“Abortion access has once again been protected in Missouri by the courts, but only for some. Although the judge recognized the merits of our case, he has also allowed parts of the law to go into effect. While most people seeking abortion will thankfully still be able to do so, allowing the reason ban to take effect will have a measurable impact. It requires physicians to interrogate patients and, in turn, destroys the foundation of trust essential in a health care setting. 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. Although we are grateful today’s ruling allows us to provide care to some Missourians, we will continue to defend the truth: EVERY reason to have an abortion is a valid reason.”
Governor Mike Parson released the following statement on Tuesday's decision:
“We sent a strong message that Missouri stands for life, protection of women’s health, and advocates for the unborn with the passage and signing of HB 126. We are encouraged that today’s court ruling upheld the anti-discrimination provisions of the law, and we look forward to litigating the remaining issues. As Governor, I am honored to lead a state that is committed to standing up for those without a voice and will continue to fight for the unborn. HB 126 also carried several other provisions that will go into effect tomorrow that will increase women’s health. Most notably, it will modify the definition of pregnancy resource centers, leading to greater access and safety for women.”