Missouri legislature set to pass abortion ban at eight weeks

Missouri’s Republican-led House is expected to pass a sweeping bill to ban abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy, on legislators’ final day in session.

The state would join Alabama and several other states that have moved recently to severely restrict terminations.

If enacted, the ban would be among the most restrictive in the US. It would include exceptions for medical emergencies, but not for pregnancies caused by rape or incest.

Doctors would face five to 15 years in prison for violating the eight-week cut-off. Women who receive abortions would not be prosecuted.

Republican governor Mike Parson is likely to sign the bill.

“Until the day that we no longer have abortions in this country, I will never waver in the fight for life,” he said on Wednesday during a rally with supporters of the legislation.

Planned Parenthood Action Fund president Leana Wen said in a statement that enacting the measure would be “disastrous”.

The Missouri legislation comes after Alabama’s governor signed a bill on Wednesday making performing an abortion a felony in nearly all cases.

Supporters say the Alabama bill is meant to conflict with the 1973 Roe vs Wade decision that legalised abortion nationally, in hopes of sparking a court case that might prompt the current panel of more conservative justices to revisit abortion rights.

Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia have also approved bans on abortion once foetal cardiac activity can be detected, which can occur in about the sixth week of pregnancy.

Some of those laws have already been challenged in court, and similar restrictions in North Dakota and Iowa were struck down by judges.

Missouri’s bill also includes an outright ban on abortions except in cases of medical emergencies, but unlike in Alabama, it would kick in only if Roe vs Wade is overturned.

If courts do not allow Missouri’s proposed eight-week ban to take effect, the bill includes a ladder of less-restrictive time limits that would prohibit abortions at 14, 18 or 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Republican House speaker Elijah Haahr has said the goal is for the legislation to withstand court challenges.

A total of 3,903 abortions were carried out in Missouri in 2017, the last full year for which the state Department of Health and Senior Services has statistics online.

Of those, 1,673 occurred at under nine weeks and 119 occurred at 20 weeks or later.

- Press Association

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