Federal court halts Missouri’s ban on abortions after 8 weeks, Down syndrome diagnosis

A federal appeals court on Wednesday halted Missouri laws that would have banned abortions after eight weeks and for a fetal Down syndrome diagnosis.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit upheld a lower court’s injunction against Missouri’s regulations.

The case was brought by Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region. Missouri had argued that the abortion provisions are legal because they are restrictions, not total bans.

But the three-judge panel said the pre-viability law was effectively a ban and ran afoul of Supreme Court precedent.

“This distinction is significant. Bans on pre-viability abortions are categorically unconstitutional,” the 8th Circuit panel ruled.

According to court papers, it was estimated the prohibition on abortions after the 20-week period would have prevented 100 abortions a year in the state, while an eight-week ban would ban half of all abortions in Missouri.

If an abortion provider had conducted an abortion after eight weeks, he or she would have been subject to criminal charges.

For an abortion based on a fetal Down syndrome diagnosis, the provider could have faced civil penalties.

The provisions would have taken effect in August of 2019, but the district court had halted the bans.

Missouri appealed the U.S. District Court’s injunctions, but a three-judge panel ruled Wednesday that prohibiting abortion before a fetus is viable, usually after 24 weeks, is unconstitutional.

However, the judges split 2-1 on the Down syndrome provision, with Judge David Ryan Stras, a Trump appointee, dissenting. Judge Stras said he would have lifted that injunction and allowed that regulation to go into effect.

The Supreme Court is set to hear a similar case out of Mississippi during the court’s next term which begins in October. The justices will decide if Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks is unlawful.

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