Law & the Courts

Federal Judge Blocks Missouri’s Eight-Week Abortion Ban

(Carlos Jasso/Reuters)

A federal judge in Missouri on Tuesday blocked a restrictive new state law that would ban abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy.

Judge Howard Sach said the Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act had overstepped the state’s constitutional authority to restrict abortion.

“However formulated, the legislation on its face conflicts with the Supreme Court ruling that neither legislative or judicial limits on abortion can be measured by specified weeks or development of a fetus; instead, ‘viability’ is the sole test for a State’s authority to prohibit abortions where there is no maternal health issue,” Sach wrote. “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.”

A handful of states have enacted laws designed to spark court challenges that they hope will lead to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that legalized abortion nationwide.

Last month, Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the law firm that won its fight for same-sex marriage before the Supreme Court, Paul Weiss, LLP, sued Missouri over the law.

“Today’s decision blocks a harmful law that bans abortion before many know they’re pregnant,” said Planned Parenthood’s acting president, Alexis McGill Johnson. “What little abortion access in Missouri is left will stay in place for the time being.”

Meanwhile, Students for Life president Kristan Hawkins called the ruling “a travesty of justice and an insult to the democratic process.”

The Missouri law, which includes an exception for pregnancies that endanger the life of the mother but not for cases of rape and incest, also includes bans of abortions at 14, 18 and 20 weeks, which could take effect if the court permanently blocks the eight-week ban. The law would ban abortion altogether if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

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