A federal judge on Tuesday blocked portions of a Missouri law prohibiting abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy.
U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs ruled on behalf of Planned Parenthood and other plaintiffs, issuing a preliminary injunction halting the law’s restrictive provisions, which would have taken effect Wednesday.
The Missouri law would have prohibited abortions after eight-weeks (with the exception of medical emergencies), as well as all abortions based solely on the fetus’s sex, race, or prospective cognitive disability. The law does not include any exceptions for rape or incest.
“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,” Sachs wrote.
Federal law currently permits states to ban abortions after fetal viability outside the womb, which normally occurs between 24 to 28 weeks after pregnancy. In his decision, Sachs repeatedly returned to the notion that prior to fetal viability, the state does not maintain a sufficient interest in restricting a woman’s right to have an abortion.
“Although other Supreme Court language is relied on to invalidate any prohibition of pre-viability abortions, the ‘essential holding’ most quoted is from the plurality opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, containing the rule that ‘before viability, the state’s interests are not strong enough to support a prohibition of abortion or the imposition of a substantial obstacle to the woman’s effective right to elect the procedure,” Sachs wrote, quoting from the seminal abortion case.
Sachs reiterated the same point later in his decision, writing that the Missouri law appears to directly conflict with established Supreme Court precedent on how states may regulate abortion procedures.
“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; instead, ‘viability’ is the sole test for a State’s authority to prohibit abortions where there is no maternal health issue. That is the lesson of Casey,” Sachs wrote.
Missouri is already home to some of the nation’s most restrictive abortion laws and for months has been on the verge of losing its last remaining abortion clinic. As previously reported by Law&Crime, Missouri is already one of only six states with just a single abortion clinic.
[image via YouTube screengrab]