Court Blocks Implementation of Missouri Abortion Law

The last Planned Parenthood in Missouri / Getty Images
June 9, 2021

A federal appeals court blocked the implementation of a sweeping Missouri law that would have banned all abortions that occurred after eight weeks of pregnancy or were based on fetal disability diagnoses.

A three-judge panel from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals decided against allowing the law to go into effect as legal challenges work their way through the courts. The law, passed in 2019 and titled the "Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act," includes a provision completely banning abortion in the state in the event that the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. It also prohibits abortions on the basis of fetal diagnoses of Down syndrome.

If the law is found unconstitutional, it also includes several backup options for restricting abortions. It would ban abortions after 14 weeks, 18 weeks, or 20 weeks if each subsequent ban is overturned.

"We're disappointed the circuit court refused to let Missouri's law stand, especially with a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case already pending," said Sue Liebel, state policy director for the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List. "Missouri lawmakers acted on the will of the people when they enacted some of the nation's strongest protections for the unborn and their mothers in 2019."

Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region filed the lawsuit. A district court judge initially blocked the implementation of the law, and the state of Missouri appealed. The three-judge panel agreed with the district court judge, and the fate of the law now hangs in the balance.

Yamelsie Rodríguez, president and CEO of the regional Planned Parenthood, praised the decision. "For now, we celebrate our continued ability to provide safe, legal abortion at the last remaining clinic in Missouri," she said.

The appeals court's decision comes ahead of a landmark case in front of the Supreme Court concerning a Mississippi ban on abortions after 15 weeks. The only abortion clinic in Mississippi similarly challenged that abortion ban in court.