The Governor of the State of Missouri, Mike Parson, signed a law on Friday reducing the period during which abortion is decriminalized to eight weeks. Exceptions are provided for “when there is a risk of death or irreversible physical injury to an important function of the pregnant woman’s body”, but not in the case of rape or incest. This last point was strongly contested, but the Governor justified his approval by explaining that even in cases of rape or incest the permitted period of two months was already more than sufficient to take a decision. The law provides for a prison sentence of between five and fifteen years for doctors performing illegal abortions, whereas women will never be prosecuted.
The law is set to come into force on 28 August 2019. Legal challenges have already been planned by opponents of the law, including the Missouri ACLU, which has stated that it is “exploring all options […] to prevent the law from coming taking effect”. Unlike other pro-life laws recently signed in other American states, such as in Alabama two weeks ago, lawmakers hope that this law will avoid legal challenges and is not intended to provoke them. The bill provides for an extended period of 14, 18, or even 20 weeks in the event that the eight-week law is repealed.
The law also bans abortion requests based on race, sex, or a medical diagnosis such as Down syndrome. It also requires for the parent granting written consent for his or her under-age daughter to have an abortion to inform the other parent.
In the Saint Louis clinic, the only clinic in Missouri authorized to perform abortions, 3,903 abortions were performed in 2017, including 1,673 before the ninth week, and 119 at more than 20 weeks. In 2018, provisional figures show that 2,910 abortions were performed, including 433 at eight weeks and 267 before the seventh week.