Missouri lawmakers approved a bill Friday that will ban nearly all abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy, even in cases of rape or incest.
The bill is expected to be signed by Republican Gov. Mike Parson, who has said he wants to make Missouri "the most Pro-Life state in the country" — although other states, such as Alabama, have gone further.
Different versions of the bill — dubbed "Missouri Stands With the Unborn" — were reconciled between the Republican-led Senate and House Thursday before being sent to the governor's desk. The final version would impose a ban on abortion after eight weeks of pregnancy, or generally when a fetal heartbeat or brain activity is detected. It only makes exceptions in cases of medical emergencies.
The bill also includes a “trigger” provision that would outlaw all abortions in the state if the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade is ever overturned.
Missouri is the latest to join in a wave of far-reaching anti-abortion legislation introduced or passed in several states as part of a concerted effort to get the issue before a newly conservative-leaning Supreme Court bench.
Legislation signed into law by Alabama's governor would criminalize all abortions except in cases where a woman’s health is at serious risk. Lawmakers in Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Ohio have also passed laws that outlaw abortions after a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat — which is usually at about six weeks, before many women are aware they’re pregnant.
Missouri's bill would make it a class B felony for doctors to perform abortions after eight weeks. Doctors who do could face up to 15 years in prison and a fine, along with losing their professional license. Women who receive abortions wouldn't be prosecuted.
In cases of minors undergoing an abortion, the bill requires both parents of the minor to be notified. The bill also bars abortions in cases where the woman is seeking an abortion solely because prenatal testing indicated that her child will have Down syndrome.
"This comprehensive, life-affirming legislation prohibits abortions once a heartbeat has been detected, prohibits abortions when a baby is capable of feeling pain, and would outlaw abortion in Missouri upon the reversal of Roe v. Wade," Republican Missouri state senators Dave Schatz and Caleb Rowden said in a statement Thursday.
Republican Rep. Nick Schroer, the House sponsor of the bill, called it the "the most comprehensive, strongest, and most legally sound piece of legislation."
Republican Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman added that it was “the boldest abortion bill in the country” not just to challenge Roe v. Wade but to “save the lives of women and children across the state.”
“We’re seeing the results of countless women entering into politics saying we want to protect women, we want to protect babies, and we want to make abortion not only illegal, but unthinkable,” Coleman said at a news conference Wednesday.
However, Democratic state senators, including Lauren Arthur and Jill Schupp, slammed the bill, calling it extreme and unconstitutional.
“I would characterize this bill as extreme,” Arthur said on the Missouri Senate floor. “This language four years ago would have been unthinkable, but elections have consequences. And with new Supreme Court justices there’s a new attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade, and with that, there is a push in this legislature to pass what I would characterize as very extreme legislation.”
She added, “I think this legislation will be struck down as unconstitutional.”
After the Senate passed the bill Thursday, Schupp called it an “extreme and egregious piece of legislation that puts women’s lives at risk.”
“Make no mistake about it, this is a sad day for Missouri women and families,” she added.
Missouri is already a state with restrictive access to abortion, with only one clinic in St. Louis — operated by Planned Parenthood — that offers the procedure.
M’Evie Mead of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Missouri slammed the governor for supporting the anti-abortion bill.
“Parson is willfully ignoring the syphilis outbreak and the rising maternal mortality rate happening on his watch,” Mead said in a statement. “Shame on him for suggesting the government should have a say in when and whether someone becomes a parent."
As in other states, the bill is expected to be challenged in court.
“Missouri Gov. Parson should be ashamed of riding the disgraceful coattails of 25 white men in Alabama who just voted to ban safe, legal abortion,” Leana Wen, the president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement. “This is a deliberate attempt to bring a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, and to end the right to access safe, legal abortion in this country.”