A federal appeals court panel on Wednesday blocked Missouri from banning abortions of children with Down syndrome.
A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis heard arguments last fall in the legal battle over the law which was passed and signed by Gov. Mike Parson in 2019.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt responded to the ruling in a statement that his son, Stephen, who has a rare genetic condition, autism and epilepsy, “has shown me the inherent beauty and dignity in all life, especially those with special needs. While we’re disappointed in the 8th Circuit’s decision, their decision does provide an avenue for this case to be heard by the Supreme Court, and we plan to seek review in the Supreme Court.”
The law is among more than a dozen pro-life legislative efforts that have been passed in recent years by Republican-led legislatures and challenged by pro-abortion groups who contend women have a constitutional right to abortion between 24 and 28 weeks. Missouri’s law protected unborn babies with Down after 8 weeks gestation.
Missouri Right to Life told Metro Voice that the judges blocked a “common-sense, life-saving” law that prevented the discrimination of a baby being singled out for an abortion just because that baby has Down syndrome. “After much hard work and research by our legislators to find the medically factual information needed to protect women and save babies, three judges have upheld a lower court decision enjoining the law,” stated Susan Klein, Executive Director of MRL.
The lawsuit was filed by Planned Parenthood/Reproductive Health Services, which operates the St. Louis abortion clinic. They were joined by the American Civil Liberties Union. A federal judge had blocked the law while it went through the c ourts and, ultimately the appeal to the 8th Circuit.
U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs in Kansas City had temporarily halted the Missouri law just days before it was due to go into effect in August 2019, saying it would negatively impact the rights of Missouri women. The decision on Wednesday affirmed Sachs’ ruling.
Other courts disagree.
A US appellate court decision in April upheld a similar law Ohio law that prohibits abortions because of fetal Down syndrome. The decision by a 9-7 vote implicitly challenged Supreme Court decisions dating to 1973 that protect the abortion choice in the early weeks of pregnancy.
“Bans on pre-viability abortions are categorically unconstitutional,” Judge Jane Kelly wrote in the opinion.
“A critical victory for Missourians,” is how Yamelsie Rodríguez, president and CEO of Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region described the ruling.
“For now, we celebrate our continued ability to provide safe, legal abortion at the last remaining clinic in Missouri,” Rodriguez said in a statement.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said in a statement that he was “disappointed” in the Eighth Circuit’s decision.
“We plan to seek review in the Supreme Court,” he said. “I have never and will never stop fighting to ensure that all life is protected.”
Last month, the Supreme Court signaled its willingness to reconsider Roe v. Wade when it agreed to review a Mississippi law that would ban abortions before the baby is able to live outside the womb. The high court is expected in rule on that in 2022.
–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice