U.S.|Missouri’s Eight-Week Abortion Ban Is Blocked by Federal Judge
A federal judge in Missouri blocked the state on Tuesday from enforcing a ban on abortions after the eighth week of pregnancy, enacted by Republican legislators this year as part of a national campaign to restrict abortion and perhaps prompt the United States Supreme Court to revisit Roe v. Wade.
Senior Judge Howard F. Sachs of the Federal District Court in Kansas City, Mo., issued his ruling a day before the law was scheduled to take effect. The judge criticized lawmakers’ “hostility” to Supreme Court precedent on abortion, and said the eight-week ban stood little chance of prevailing. He also blocked other portions of the law that variously sought to ban abortions after 14, 18 or 20 weeks of pregnancy, all before a fetus becomes viable outside the womb.
“While federal courts should generally be very cautious before delaying the effect of state laws, the sense of caution may be mitigated when the legislation seems designed, as here, as a protest against Supreme Court decisions,” said Judge Sachs, who was appointed by President Jimmy Carter.
Judge Sachs allowed some provisions of the law to take effect, including those banning abortions motivated solely by the sex or race of the fetus or by a diagnosis of Down syndrome.
The lawsuit, filed by Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, argued that the new law was an unconstitutional encroachment on women’s right to an abortion, which was recognized by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade in 1973. Tuesday’s ruling was seen by abortion rights supporters as a hopeful, if temporary, triumph.
“If not halted from taking effect tomorrow, this incredibly dangerous law would have criminalized abortion before many people even know that they’re pregnant,” NARAL Pro-Choice America, an abortion rights group, posted on Twitter.
Gov. Mike Parson of Missouri said in a statement he was pleased that the judge did not block the parts of the law banning abortions motivated by race, sex or a diagnosis of Down syndrome, and that he looked “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,” said Mr. Parson, a Republican who signed the restrictions into law in May.
With President Trump’s appointment of two conservative justices to the Supreme Court, many Republicans see an opening to further restrict abortion across the country and, maybe one day, overturn the Roe decision. In several states, including Alabama and Georgia, lawmakers passed measures this year that would have outlawed most abortions. Supporters of abortion rights have responded with lawsuits.
The fight has been especially intense in Missouri, where the only abortion clinic remaining in the state has been targeted this year by regulators.
State officials, citing concerns from an audit, have delayed renewal of the clinic’s license, raising the possibility that Missouri could become the first state in decades to have no abortion provider. The clinic, located in St. Louis, has sued the state, arguing that the audit was little more than a pretense to stop abortions from being performed.
That clinic remains open for now. The licensing dispute is unresolved.