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By Elisha Fieldstadt
Missouri’s Republican Gov. Mike L. Parson on Friday signed legislation banning abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy with an exception for medical emergencies, but not for rape or incest.
Under the bill, which passed in the House last Friday by 110 to 44, doctors who perform an abortion after the eight-week cutoff could face five to 15 years in prison. Women who receive abortions would not be criminally penalized.
“By signing this bill today, we are sending a strong signal to the nation that, in Missouri, we stand for life, protect women’s health, and advocate for the unborn. All life has value and is worth protecting,” Parson said in a statement Friday.“Thanks to decades of pro-life leadership, Missouri recently hit an all-time low for the number of abortions. We’ve gone from a high of more than 20,000 in our state, to now below 3,000.”
Missouri’s Republican-led Senate passed the bill, called Missouri Stands With the Unborn, by a vote of 24-10 on May 16. It prohibits doctors from performing an abortion due to a diagnosis of potential for Down syndrome, the race or sex of the unborn child.
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It also contains a clause that requires written notification of a parent or guardian for an abortion to be performed on a minor, which went into effect when Parson signed the bill, a spokesman for his office said.
Planned Parenthood on Friday assured women in the state that facilities that provide abortions are still open in Missouri and neighboring Illinois.
“People need to know that this ban is not in effect — yet. Abortion is still legal in this state and Planned Parenthood Advocates will do everything we can to protect access to abortion in Missouri,” M’Evie Mead, director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Missouri, said.
“Gov. Parson has put the health and lives of Missouri women at risk in his race to make our state the one that overturns Roe v. Wade at the Supreme Court,” she added. “At a time when maternal mortality is increasing in our state, we must be doing everything we can to increase access to health care — not cut it.”
“Missouri Gov. Mike Parson just signed the kitchen sink of extreme abortion bans, with every dangerous provision they could pack in one egregious bill. He and his counterparts in Alabama, Ohio, Mississippi, and Georgia are showing the American people what it looks like to be out of touch with science and reality,” Leana Wen, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement Friday.
Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union announced Friday that they have filed a federal lawsuit over Alabama’s ban.
Anti-abortion advocates across the United States are pushing for new restrictions on the procedure in hopes that the now more-conservative U.S. Supreme Court will overturn more than 40 years of federal abortion protections under Roe v. Wade.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Nicholas B. Schroer, has said that the purpose of the bill wasn’t to provoke court challenges.
“While others are zeroing in on ways to overturn Roe v. Wade and navigate the courts as quickly as possible, that is not our goal,” he said. “However, if and when that fight comes we will be fully ready.”
If the eight-week ban is challenged in court and blocked, the bill has built-in concessions of less-restrictive time limits that would prohibit abortions at 14, 18 or 20 weeks or pregnancy.
“This legislation has one goal, and that is to save lives … to withstand judicial challenges and not cause them,” Schroer said.
Democratic lawmakers challenged that claim last week.
“This is nothing but an affront not to Roe v. Wade … to what it stands for, to the U.S. Constitution itself,” said Democratic Rep. Ian Mackey. “Women brought all of us into this world, and I sure hope they vote all of us out.”