The Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act was signed into law in 2019. Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region sued over the law, and a district court judge in August 2019 blocked it from going into effect.
The law set up several tiers of abortion restrictions at various stages in pregnancy – at eight, 14, 18, and 20 weeks of pregnancy – designed to be able to withstand judicial scrutiny. Judge Howard Sachs halted all the tiers from going into effect, ruling that they were unconstitutional pre-viability abortion bans; the abortion providers were likely to succeed on the merits of their case against the law, he said in his decision to grant a preliminary injunction.
Judge Sachs initially allowed one part of the law to go into effect – a ban on “discrimination” abortions conducted for the sole reason of the baby’s race, sex, or a Down Syndrome diagnosis. The district court later blocked that provision as well, after Reproductive Health Services brought additional evidence claiming harm done to clients by the law.
In the Eighth Circuit ruling on Wednesday, a three-judge panel considered whether or not to uphold the preliminary injunction placed on the law by the district court. The state failed to make its case to overcome the injunction, the court ruled.
“Missouri has failed to demonstrate that its policy priorities outweigh (1) the public interest in access to pre-viability abortions, or (2) the significant interference with RHS’s business and the harm to pregnant individuals who might seek a pre-viability abortion before final judgment in this case,” Judge Jane Kelly of the Eighth Circuit court wrote in the majority opinion.
The law’s ban on abortions after 20 weeks would have resulted in around 100 fewer abortions each year in the state, she wrote, and the eight-week abortion ban would have restricted around half of abortions in the state – estimates that the state “does not dispute.”