On August 27, 2019, a federal judge blocked Missouri’s 8-week abortion ban. In May, The Show-Me State approved the “Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act” that would prohibit abortions after eight weeks gestation according to TheBlaze.
Unsurprisingly, the law angered abortion advocates who argued that 8 weeks was too close to the time when many women discovered they were pregnant. The legislation provided for imprisonment of up to 15 years for physicians who broke the new law. The measure contained an exception for medical emergencies. However, no exceptions were provided for incest or rape.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs wrote that the measure’s “various sections specifying prohibitions on abortions at various weeks prior to viability cannot be allowed to go into effect on August 28 as scheduled.” Medical experts typically view babies who are born at the 24-week mark or later to be viable. But, babies who have been born as early as 21 weeks and four days have lived and thrived. The ruling outlined that “about half the reported abortions in Missouri” were performed after the eighth week of pregnancy.
Judge Sachs maintained, “If it were possible to sever the language to limit the preliminary injunction to non-viable fetuses I would do so, but that cannot be done without judicial re-writing of the section, a practice to be avoided when possible.”
Fortunately, Judge Sachs’ decision wasn’t all unwelcome news for pro-life advocates. While the Judge temporarily blocked certain aspects of the Missouri legislation, he left other parts of it intact. Physicians at Planned Parenthood of St. Louis must comply with the aptly named “reason” ban. This portion of the legislation prohibits expectant mothers from ending their pregnancies based exclusively on sex, race, or a “prenatal diagnosis, test, or screening indicating Down Syndrome or the potential of Down Syndrome.” This section of the “Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act” was slated to take effect on August 28.
The chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood of St. Louis, Dr. Colleen McNicholas, insisted the “reason” ban would result in a “measurable impact” forcing her to “interrogate patients.” A spokesperson for the abortion provider stated they will abide by the new law. In a statement provided to CBS News on August 27, McNicholas remarked, “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.”
Concerning the “reason” ban, Judge Sachs claimed there was an “absence of any information from [Planned Parenthood]” on the rate of discrimination-based abortion procedures. He contended this made it hard for him to ascertain the measure’s interference of the “abortion rights of real-life women.”
According to CBS News, “Critics of such bans say they force doctors to illegally scrutinize a woman’s reason for seeking the procedure and, in the case of gender-based abortion bans, push professionals to unfairly scrutinize Asian-American women, even though no data exists to suggest the practice happens in the United States, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights and health research group.”
During a recent telephone interview with CBS News, a senior state policy researcher at the Guttmacher Institute, Elizabeth Nash, commented, “Abortion opponents have used these bans to not only make abortion less accessible, but have tried to use these kinds of bans as a wedge issue to divide the progressive community by targeting African Americans, Asians, immigrants and those with disabilities.”
In May, a different federal judge prohibited Missouri from closing the Planned Parenthood of St. Louis, the last operating abortion clinic in The Show-Me State. According to TheBlaze, Missouri had decided to allow the abortion provider’s license to expire after it disregarded a request from the state government to interview its seven doctors to make sure they were following current legal guidelines.
Obviously, Judge Sachs’ ruling isn’t what pro-life supporters likely hoped to hear. However, it did uphold the “reason” ban, which outlaws discrimination-based abortions. Whenever abortions are limited in any capacity, it’s a win for life.