A federal judge blocked key portions of one of the most ambitious pieces of pro-life legislation in Missouri’s history, a day before the law was scheduled to go into effect.
But other aspects of the law were allowed to stand, pending the outcome of a lawsuit against the state.
In response to the lawsuit and after hearing arguments from both sides, U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs issued a temporary injunction on the eight-week abortion ban called for in HB 126, also known as the Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act.
The order also prevents abortion bans beginning at 14, 18 and 20 weeks that were also included in HB 126 from being enforced. The drafters of the legislation intended for a new threshold in fetal development to be the cut-off for abortion if one of the earlier bans was struck down in court.
Judge Sachs’s order will keep those provisions from being enforced until after Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit seeking a permanent injunction against the law is decided.
Sections of HB 126 that were allowed to go into effect Aug. 28 include:
In addition, a requirement for both parents to be notified when a minor child is seeking an abortion went into effect immediately at the bill’s signing because of an emergency clause.
The Missouri General Assembly passed the bill during this year’s legislative session, and Gov. Mike Parson signed it into law.
“We are disappointed that Judge Sachs has chosen to block the portions of HB 126 that protect human life from the moment a heartbeat is detected and before viability,” said Deacon Tyler McClay, executive director of the Missouri Catholic Conference (MCC), public-policy agency of the state’s four Roman Catholic dioceses.
“We are encouraged, however, by his decision at this point not to enjoin enforcement of a provision that would ban abortions sought solely based upon sex, race, or a diagnosis of Down syndrome,” he stated.
Planned Parenthood had argued vigorously against allowing that provision, known as the non-discrimination section, to go into effect.
In his opinion, Judge Sachs stated that “Caution suggests I withhold a preliminary injunction against the anti-discrimination section.”
The MCC supported HB 126 throughout the 2019 legislative session hoping that HB 126, along with similar bills passed in other states, would help to change the narrative about abortion by redirecting the conversation to the humanity of unborn life.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt is defending the law on the state’s behalf.
“It is our hope,” the MCC stated Aug. 27, “that Judge Sachs and others considering HB 126 going forward will consider the provisions of this legislation in the light of the undeniable body of scientific evidence revealing the reality of human life inside the womb and the legitimate interest of the State of Missouri in protecting that life.”
According to the MCC, the federal judge’s decision to preserve the ban on abortions sought solely based upon sex, race or a diagnosis of Down syndrome appears to be a move in that direction.
“Philosophically and for the cause, that’s a very big deal,” said Deacon McClay. “If you say a state has a right to ban abortion based on race or sex or a diagnosis, you open the door to the court considering the fact that this is a human life in the womb, even if he or she is not yet viable, and that you can ban abortion pre-viability.
“The Supreme Court has not addressed a limited pre-viability ban like this,” he said.