A new Missouri ban on abortions at or after eight weeks of pregnancy won’t take effect Wednesday after a federal judge temporarily blocked it from being implemented.
U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs put a pause on the law as a legal challenge against it plays out in 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 vs. 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, although similar abortion restrictions in North Dakota and Iowa have been struck down by judges. 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 vs. Wade is overturned.
Missouri already has some of the nation’s most restrictive abortion regulations. Just one clinic in the state performs abortions.