Missouri’s Republican Gov. Michael 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 a week earlier 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.
Missouri’s Republican-led Senate passed the bill, called Missouri Stands With the Unborn, by a vote of 24-10 on May 16.
The law will only kick in if Roe v. Wade is overturned, and Planned Parenthood is assuring women in the state that facilities that provide abortions are still open in Missouri and neighboring Illinois.
Parson joins the governors of Alabama, Georgia and several other states who have also recently signed stringent abortion legislation. Anti-abortion advocates across the U.S. 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.
“This legislation has one goal, and that is to save lives … to withstand judicial challenges and not cause them,” he said.
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.
“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,” Schroer said. “However, if and when that fight comes we will be fully ready.”
EARLIER: Missouri lawmakers approve ban on nearly all abortions
Missouri lawmakers have passed a controversial bill which would outlaw nearly all abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy in the US state. The bill was approved by Missouri’s Republican-led Senate by 24 votes to 10 on Thursday morning.
Missouri’s House and Republican Governor Mike Parson must back the bill before it can become law.
If approved, abortions past eight weeks would be banned in most cases, including rape or incest.
Missouri’s Democratic Senator Jill Schupp condemned the bill for failing to “understanding that women’s lives all hold different stories”.
However, Republican Senators Dave Schatz and Caleb Rowden published a joint statement praising the “life-affirming” legislation.
The vote came hours after Alabama’s governor signed a near-total ban on abortion in the state on Wednesday, promoting protests and concern from pro-choice supporters.
Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky and Ohio are among the other states to pass new abortion restrictions.
Most anti-abortion bills have faced legal challenges. However, this is what pro-life supporters hope will happen, as they want to reach the Supreme Court in order to challenge its landmark decision to legalise abortion in 1973.
Earlier this year the Supreme Court blocked implementation of new abortion restrictions in Louisiana. However, the ruling was made by a narrow margin and the case is due to be reviewed later this year.
HISTORY MADE! Missouri Stands with the Unborn Act (@Koenig4MO) passed by the Senate (24-10). No abortions after a heartbeat is detected, no abortions after the baby can feel pain, abortions are outlawed after Roe v. Wade is overturned. #prolife #moleg pic.twitter.com/pottSt7tGg
— Missouri Senate Republicans (@MoSenateGOP) May 16, 2019
Why is this happening now?
The Missouri bill comes amid a nationwide push for new restrictions by opponents of abortions.
They have been emboldened by the addition of two conservative justices nominated by President Donald Trump, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, who give the nine-member court a conservative majority.
Their aim, they say, is for the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade ruling to be undermined or overturned completely.
What is the Missouri bill?
The bill, dubbed Missouri Stands With The Unborn, would outlaw performing an abortion in nearly all cases.
Under the bill, exemptions would be made for medical emergencies, but not pregnancies caused by rape or incest.
Doctors who perform abortions more than eight weeks into pregnancy would face five to 15 years in prison, the Associated Press reports.
A woman who has an abortion would not be held criminally liable.
Mr Parson, who supports the bill, said it would allow Missouri to become “one of the strongest pro-life states in the country”.
What restrictions are other states enacting?
Earlier this year the governors of four states – Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio – signed bills banning abortion if an embryonic heartbeat can be detected.
Opponents say this amounts to a ban on abortion because cardiac activity in an embryo can be detected as early as the sixth week, before a woman may be aware that she is pregnant.
The Guttmacher Institute, which campaigns for reproductive rights, says none of these bans are yet in effect, but their introduction is part of the same strategy to get the cases heard by the Supreme Court, it says.
Overall 28 states are currently considering legislation that would ban abortion in a variety of ways, it says.