Federal appeals court blocks sweeping Missouri abortion law

FILE- In a May 24, 2019, file photo, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signs one of the nation's most restrictive abortion bills, banning the procedure on or beyond eight weeks of pregnancy, in Jefferson City, Mo. A federal appeals court panel on Wednesday, June 9, 2021, blocked Missouri from enforcing the sweeping state abortion law. A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis heard arguments in September in the legal battle over the 2019 law. (AP Photo/Summer Balentine, File)
FILE- In a May 24, 2019, file photo, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signs one of the nation's most restrictive abortion bills, banning the procedure on or beyond eight weeks of pregnancy, in Jefferson City, Mo. A federal appeals court panel on Wednesday, June 9, 2021, blocked Missouri from enforcing the sweeping state abortion law. A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis heard arguments in September in the legal battle over the 2019 law. (AP Photo/Summer Balentine, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

A federal appeals court panel on Wednesday blocked Missouri from enforcing a sweeping state abortion law that bans the procedures at or after eight weeks of pregnancy.

A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis heard arguments in September in the legal battle over the 2019 law. The measure also would prohibit a woman from having an abortion because the fetus has Down syndrome.

Yamelsie Rodríguez, president and CEO of Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, called the ruling “a critical victory for Missourians.”

“For now, we celebrate our continued ability to provide safe, legal abortion at the last remaining clinic in Missouri,” Rodriguez said in a statement.

Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt said in a statement that his son, Stephen, who has a rare genetic condition, autism and epilepsy, “has shown me the inherent beauty and dignity in all life, especially those with special needs. While we’re disappointed in the 8th Circuit’s decision, their decision does provide an avenue for this case to be heard by the Supreme Court, and we plan to seek review in the Supreme Court.”

The lawsuit was filed by Reproductive Health Services, which operates the St. Louis abortion clinic, and the American Civil Liberties Union. A federal judge had blocked the law while the legal challenge plays out, prompting the state’s appeal to the 8th Circuit.

U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs said at the time of his ruling last year that Planned Parenthood and the ACLU would likely succeed in their lawsuit alleging that the law is unconstitutional. Similar laws have been struck down in North Dakota and Iowa.

Most of the discussion at the hearing in September centered around the provision banning abortions because the fetus is diagnosed with Down syndrome. Missouri Solicitor General John Sauer cited an “epidemic of abortions targeting children with Down syndrome for elimination solely because of their disability.”