Missouri’s 8-Week Abortion Ban to be Subject to Another Federal Court of Appeal Review | KCUR 89.3
In a move that longtime legal observers see as unusual, the Eighth United States Court of Appeals will, on its own initiative, review a June 9 decision which blocked the application of a 2019 Missouri law criminalizing abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape or incest.
The order, issued last week, puts the case before the court’s 18 judges. The ruling overturns a three-judge panel ruling that confirmed U.S. District Court Judge Howard Sachs preliminary injunction blocking the law.
However, the injunction will remain in effect as long as the court examines the case.
The law in court also criminalizes abortions if they are sought solely because of a prenatal diagnosis, test or screening indicating Down syndrome or the potential for Down syndrome in an unborn child.
On July 1, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced that he ask the United States Supreme Court to hear an appeal of the decision of the eighth circuit. The high court has already been asked to accept a similar case, with a similar result to the Eighth Circuit, originally from Arkansas.
“We are certainly encouraged by the Eighth Circuit’s decision to leave and order a new hearing, and we look forward to the opportunity to vigorously defend this law once again,” Scmitt spokesman Chris Nuelle wrote, in an email to The Independent.
It’s unclear whether the new hearing means Schmitt will withdraw the petition in the Supreme Court, Nuelle wrote.
The decision to revoke the June ruling is unusual as it was not motivated by a request from either party. In its weekly newsletter, Missouri Right to Life called it a “surprise action” and in a statement to The Independent, Planned Parenthood called it a “sudden change.”
Under the law of 2019, named the Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act by its supporters, doctors who perform abortions after the eight-week gestation period could face five to 15 years in prison. Women who terminate their pregnancy would not be prosecuted.
The law also penalizes abortions requested only because of a prenatal diagnosis, test or screening indicating trisomy 21 or the potential for trisomy during pregnancy. Anyone participating in the abortion would face civil penalties, including loss of professional licenses.
The law was not enforced because it was challenged by the St. Louis-based Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood, which operates the state’s only remaining abortion clinic. Sachs issued the preliminary injunction a day before it took effect.
“We have long said that the fight to protect access to abortion in Missouri is far from over,” Yamelsie Rodríguez, president and CEO of Reproductive Health Services, said in a statement. “The Eighth Circuit’s sudden change to reconsider Missouri’s sweeping abortion ban – a ruling the court ruled unconstitutional – is just another troubling signal in a long line of threats to our reproductive freedom. “
In the June opinion, Judge Jane Kelly wrote that “banning a single predictable abortion would be enough” to make the law unconstitutional. Kelly, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, was joined by Judge Roger Wollman, appointed to the bench by President Ronald Reagan, and Judge David Stras, appointed by President Donald Trump, in this part of the notice.
Judges were divided over whether to block enforcement of the law banning abortions due to a diagnosis of Down syndrome, with Stras dissenting.
“We are delighted that the Missouri bill, the most pro-life ever passed in the country, is being reconsidered by the 8th Circuit,” Susan Klein, executive director of Missouri Right to Life, wrote in the newsletter.
The law is one of many passed in states with anti-abortion legislative majorities designed to directly challenge the 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade that the Constitution protects the right to abortion. The Supreme Court in May accepted a case from Mississippi on a law banning abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy.
Missouri already has some of the toughest abortion restrictions in the country.
State law requires doctors to have admitting privileges to nearby hospitals before they can perform abortions. Because of this requirement, the St. Louis Planned Parenthood facility is the only one in Missouri to be licensed to perform abortions.
A woman seeking an abortion should receive counseling from the state that includes information designed to discourage her from going through with it. The doctor performing the abortion, not the social workers or nurse practitioners, should provide the advice. She must then wait 72 hours before the procedure is performed.
The use of telemedicine to administer medical abortions is prohibited.