Missouri Abortion Ban Blocked With Restraining Order

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (CN) – A federal judge has blocked Missouri from enforcing an abortion ban set to take effect Wednesday.

Granting a temporary restraining order Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Howard F. Sachs found that the law would prohibit two-thirds of Planned Parenthood patients from obtaining abortions and about half of the reported abortions in the state.

“I classify that as a significant interference with plaintiffs’ service and the rights of its prospective patients, so it should be considered quite adequate as harm to justify immediate relief from the defective provisions of House Bill 126,” Sachs wrote in an 11-page order.

Missouri already has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, with a 72-hour waiting period in addition to the impending eight-week ban.

Republican Governor Mike Parson upped those restrictions on May 24, signing a bill that banned abortions on or after the eighth week of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape or incest. In addition to the eight-week cutoff, the bill also imposes a penalty of up to 15 years in prison for doctors who violate the ban. Women who receive abortions would not be prosecuted.

The bill also includes an outright ban on abortions, but only the Supreme Court ever overturns Roe v. Wade, its 1973 landmark decision that legalized abortion up until 22 to 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in July, claiming the law is unconstitutional. Similar laws in Arkansas and Ohio have been struck down in court earlier this year.

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

“In the meantime, we cannot ignore the part of this law that remains in place, which allows politicians to interfere with the patient-provider relationship,” Johnson continued. “Let’s be very clear: these severe restrictions on abortion access do nothing to address disability rights or discrimination. They only stigmatize abortion and shame the people who seek that care.”

State Solicitor General John Sauer meanwhile questioned whether Planned Parenthood and the ACLU have legal standing to oppose the law, noting that most abortions are performed in Missouri prior to eight weeks. Sauer argued that Planned Parenthood and the ACLU have only a financial interest in allowing abortion, and that patients alone have the constitutional right to file lawsuits opposing abortion laws.

A state spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit is the latest in an ongoing legal battle between Planned Parenthood and Missouri.

In another matter, Planned Parenthood has a hearing set with the Administrative Hearing Commission on Oct. 28 in an attempt to reverse the state’s decision to deny its abortion license. If the license denial is ultimately allowed, Missouri would become the first state without any abortion providers since 1973.

Missouri is just one GOP-dominated states serving as a battleground for abortion rights. Supporters of abortion bans welcome legal challenges because they want the case to make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes of overturning Roe.

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