Missouri's House passes bill banning abortions at 8 weeks of pregnancy

The bill includes exceptions for medical emergencies, but not for rape and incest.
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By Elisha Fieldstadt and Associated Press

Missouri's Republican-led House passed a bill banning abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy with an exception for medical emergencies but not for rape or incest.

Republican Gov. Mike Parson said Friday he intends to sign the bill, following the governors of Alabama, Georgia and several other states who have also recently signed stringent abortion legislation.

"Until the day that we no longer have abortions in this country, I will never waver in the fight for life," Parson said during a rally Wednesday.

Under the bill, which passed in the House by 110 to 44, doctors who perform an abortion after the eight-week cutoff could face five to 15 years in prison. Women who receive abortions would not be criminally penalized.

The debate before the vote Friday was briefly interrupted by abortion-rights supporters chanting "when you lie, people die" and "women's rights are human rights." They were escorted from the chamber, but following the vote shouted "shame, shame, shame" while marching through the Capitol.

Missouri's Republican-led Senate passed the bill, called Missouri Stands With the Unborn, by a vote of 24-10 on Thursday morning. Friday was Missouri lawmakers' last day for the current session.

Debate Friday in the House was spirited and emotional.

“I am a woman. It is my body, it is my choice. I am pro-life. Pro-life means when they start breathing we make sure they make it to adulthood," said Democratic Rep. Barbara Washington.

"Laundry, bleach, acid bitter, concoction, knitting needles, bicycle spokes, ballpoint pens, jumping from the top of the stairs or the roof," said Democratic Rep. Sarah Unsicker. "These are ways that women around the world who don't have access to legal abortions perform their own."

Once enacted, the law will only kick in if Roe v. Wade is overturned, and Planned Parenthood was assuring women in the state that facilities that provide abortions are still open in Missouri and neighboring Illinois.

"Today, the Missouri House stood for the unborn," said House Speaker Elijah Haahr in a statement following the passage of the bill. "The bold legislation we sent to the governor's desk is the strongest and most comprehensive pro-life bill in the country."

Anti-abortion advocates across the U.S. are pushing for new restrictions on the procedure in hopes that the now more-conservative U.S. Supreme Court will overturn more than 40 years of federal abortion protection under Roe v. Wade.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Nicholas B. Schroer, said Friday that the purpose of the bill wasn't to provoke court challenges.

"This legislation has one goal, and that is to save lives ... to withstand judicial challenges and not cause them," he said.

If the courts block the eight-week ban, the bill has built-in concessions of less-restrictive time limits that would prohibit abortions at 14, 18 or 20 weeks or pregnancy.

"While others are zeroing in on ways to overturn Roe v. Wade and navigate the courts as quickly as possible, that is not our goal," Schroer said. "However, if and when that fight comes we will be fully ready."

Democratic representatives challenged the claim that passage of the bill was not in an effort to challenge established law.

"This is nothing but an affront not to Roe v. Wade ... to what it stands for, to the U.S. Constitution itself," said Democratic Rep. Ian Mackey. "Women brought all of us into this world, and I sure hope they vote all of us out," he said.

"This is a terrifying time for women in America," Leana Wen, the president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund said in a statement Friday. “Planned Parenthood will not sit by and watch as politicians take our rights and freedoms to women's health care away. We will fight in Missouri, Georgia, Alabama, and everywhere else politicians interfere with medical care, because women’s health care is health care and health care is a human right.”

In the past two weeks, both Alabama and Georgia have passed strict abortion laws, although they have not yet taken effect, and may never be implemented, depending on results of court challenges.

Alabama

Alabama's law, signed by Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday, makes it a felony for a doctor to perform or attempt an abortion during any stage of pregnancy.

The state's House approved the bill with an exception for cases when a mother's health is at serious risk. The Senate considered but rejected also adding exemptions for when the pregnancy results from rape and incest.

The law is not due to go into effect for six months after the signing. Under current law, abortions can be performed up to 21 weeks and six days. As it is, there are only three abortion clinics left in the state of Alabama.

Georgia

Georgia's law, signed by Gov. Brian Kemp, bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected — which can happen as early as six weeks, before many women are aware they are pregnant.

The law includes rape and incest exceptions, if the woman filed a police report. It also includes exceptions to save the mother's life and if a fetus is determined to not be viable because of serious medical issues.

Under current law, abortions can be performed during the first 20 weeks of a pregnancy. The new ban is not due to go into effect until Jan. 1, 2020.

Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio have also approved bans on abortion once fetal cardiac activity can be detected. Some of those laws already have been challenged in court, and similar restrictions in North Dakota and Iowa previously were struck down by judges.

Elisha Fieldstadt

Elisha Fieldstadt is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.

Associated Press