A federal appeals court on Wednesday prevented Missouri from enforcing a state abortion law that bans the procedures after or after eight weeks of gestation.
A three-person jury from the 8th St. Louis Court of Appeals heard arguments in the 2019 law litigation in September. The measure would also prohibit a woman from having an abortion because the fetus has Down syndrome.
Yamelsie Rodriguez, President and CEO of Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood for the St. Louis area, called the ruling “a decisive victory for Missourians.”
“Right now we are celebrating our continued ability to offer safe and legal abortions in the last remaining clinic in Missouri,” Rodriguez said in a statement.
Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt said in a statement that his son Stephen, who suffers from a rare genetic disorder, autism, and epilepsy, “showed me the inherent beauty and dignity of all life, especially those with special needs. District, your decision provides a chance to hear this case in the Supreme Court and we plan to seek a review with the Supreme Court. “
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The lawsuit was filed by Reproductive Health Services, which operates the St. Louis abortion clinic, and the American Civil Liberties Union. A federal judge blocked the law while the legal challenge was in progress, leading to the state’s appeal to the 8th District.
US District Judge Howard Sachs said in his ruling last year that Planned Parenthood and the ACLU were likely to succeed in their lawsuit alleging the law was unconstitutional. Similar laws were enacted in North Dakota and Iowa.
Most of the discussion at the September hearing revolved around the provision banning abortion because the fetus was diagnosed with Down syndrome. Missouri attorney general John Sauer cited an “epidemic of abortion targeting children with Down syndrome for the sole purpose of eliminating them because of their disability.”
Planned Parenthood attorney Claudia Hammerman argued at the time that four decades of Supreme Court precedents “make it clear this is unconstitutional”. She said doctors would not run the risk of losing their medical license to abort a fetus with Down syndrome whether or not the condition was the reason the woman applied for the procedure.
Several states passed laws in 2021 to ban abortion based solely on a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. Governors in Arizona and South Dakota recently signed such laws, and similar measures are pending in North Carolina and Texas. Meanwhile, a federal appeals court said Ohio could begin implementing a 2017 law that has been put on hold.
Missouri is also among several Conservative states that have introduced abortion restrictions in recent years in hopes that the increasingly conservative Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade, will eventually overturn the 1973 decision that established a nationwide right to abortion.
Last month, the Supreme Court voted 6-3 on a case over whether states can ban abortions before a fetus can survive outside the uterus. Experts say the case could dramatically change judgments on the right to abortion for nearly 50 years. Three judges appointed by former President Donald Trump approved a conservative majority to hear the case.