Judge Blocks Missouri's 8-Week Abortion Ban From Going Into Effect

The widely protested law was set to go into effect the next day.

A judge has temporarily blocked one of the country’s most restrictive abortion laws from going into effect in Missouri the next day, saying a lawsuit over the statute’s constitutionality needs to play out before the state can enforce it.

Tuesday’s decision from U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs comes amid an ongoing lawsuit Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri filed over the state’s ban on nearly all abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy, which Gov. Mike Parson (R) signed into law in May. 

Pro-choice supporters and staff of Planned Parenthood hold a rally outside the Planned Parenthood Reproductive Health Service
Pro-choice supporters and staff of Planned Parenthood hold a rally outside the Planned Parenthood Reproductive Health Services Center in St. Louis, Missouri, May 31, 2019, the last location in the state performing abortions. - A US Court on May 31, 2019 blocked Missouri from closing the clinic. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

In his ruling, Sachs said he exercises caution when delaying a state law but that “the legislation seems designed ... as a protest” against Supreme Court rulings against such abortion bans.

“However formulated, the legislation on its face conflicts with the Supreme Court ruling that neither legislative nor judicial limits on abortion can be measured by specified weeks of development of a fetus,” he said. 

“It is thus highly likely,” he continued, “that the listed weekly time limits on abortions will be ruled invalid in the final judgment in this case.”

The law in question also prohibits doctors from performing abortions if they know the patient is seeking the abortion because of indications the fetus will be born with Down syndrome. Additionally, it outlaws minors from obtaining an abortion without written parental consent in most cases.

Sachs said he made his decision after considering the “irreparable harm” the ban could have on women in Missouri, one of six states with only one clinic providing abortions.

Opponents of the law didn’t sugarcoat their concerns when it came up for a final House vote in May.

“The likelihood of me dying in childbirth is four times higher,” state Rep. Cora Faith Walker (D), a Black woman, said through tears. She was referencing research showing that Black women’s risks during childbirth are higher due to lower access to quality health care and a tendency for medical providers to dismiss their symptoms as less serious. 

“It’s not hyperbole, it’s reality,” Walker continued.

Her colleague Rep. Sarah Unsicker (D) listed the lethal ways women carry out abortions when they can’t legally access them: “Laundry bleach, acid, knitting needles, bicycle spokes, ballpoint pens, jumping from the top of the stairs or the roof.” 

The Missouri law is one of several restrictive abortion bans states have passed in recent months. Lawsuits have also successfully prevented them from going into effect in Arkansas, Kentucky, Ohio and Utah. Developments in similar lawsuits in Alabama and Georgia are expected soon.