It’s not just Alabama: Missouri advances package of stringent abortion bans

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Just hours after Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) signed the country’s harshest abortion ban into law, Missouri’s Republican-controlled Senate passed a package of bills early Thursday morning that, among other extreme provisions, bans abortion at eight weeks of pregnancy.

Neither the Alabama law nor the Missouri bill, which now moves to Missouri’s GOP-controlled State House of Representative, include exceptions for rape or incest, effectively forcing victims of those crimes to carry their pregnancies to term. Under the Missouri bill, doctors who violate the eight-week ban would face up to 15 years in prison. The legislation is expected to pass in the House and Republican Gov. Mike Parson is expected to sign it into law.

Like Alabama, Missouri’s bill also includes an outright abortion ban, except in the case of medical emergencies. But unlike the Alabama law, which is slated to go into effect in six months, Missouri’s outright ban provision would only go into effect if Roe v. Wade is overturned, a scenario that’s looking increasingly likely with the Supreme Court’s new conservative majority.

The news is particularly dire in Missouri, as the state already has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. Patients who want to obtain the procedure are required to wait 72 hours. Furthermore, the state has only one abortion clinic left, thanks to a medically unnecessary law that requires doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. As a result, patients are subjected to delays and, in some cases, high travel costs — a reality that hits low-income pregnant women and gender minorities the hardest. 

Pro-choice advocates slammed lawmakers for their hypocrisy in celebrating the bills as a “pro-life” win, despite the fact that the state has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country.

“So much of this bill is just shaming women into some kind of complacency that says we are vessels of pregnancy rather than understanding that women’s lives all hold different stories,” state Sen. Jill Schupp (D) said during floor debate.

Under the legislation, abortion based on race, sex, or a test indicating Down Syndrome would be prohibited. It would require both parents of a minor seeking abortion to be notified ahead of the procedure, unless the parents lacks legal or physical custody.

Missouri joins a slew of Republican-led state legislatures rushing to pass measures restricting abortion in the past several weeks, encouraged by the possibility that the extreme measures will prompt lawsuits that will lead the conservative Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, which effectively legalized the procedure up to around 24 weeks of pregnancy, the point of viability for the fetus. Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Ohio all advanced so-called “heartbeat” bans, banning abortion at the time that a physician can first detect cardiac activity — or as early as six weeks, before most people even know they’re pregnant. 

If lawsuits prevent Missouri’s ban to go into effect, the measure also includes limits to abortion ranging from 14 to 20 weeks.

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