Missouri poised to pass restrictive abortion law, days after Alabama

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with the Governor of Missouri Mike Parson as he arrives in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., July 26, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

By Jonathan Allen and Steve Gorman

(Reuters) – Missouri House lawmakers are expected to pass a bill on Friday to ban most abortions eight weeks after conception, days after Alabama introduced the nation’s most restrictive abortion law.

Missouri senators overwhelmingly approved the legislation early on Thursday and Republican Gov. Mike Parson is expected to sign it into law. He has said he would make Missouri “one of the strongest pro-life states in the country.”

In the bill, the only exclusion would be for medical emergencies. On Wednesday, Alabama banned abortions at any time barring the same exception.

Similar laws have been proposed in more than a dozen other states as Republican-controlled legislatures push to restrict the rights of women to terminate their pregnancies.

Renewed efforts to roll back Roe v. Wade, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide in 1973 have been emboldened by two judicial appointments by President Donald Trump that have given conservatives a solid majority on the Supreme Court.

At a time when U.S. rates of abortion have sharply declined, the issue has also reignited clashes between religious conservatives and others who say pro-life protections should extend to the unborn, and those, including civil libertarians, who see such measures as an infringement on women’s rights.

The sharpened national focus on the highly charged debate also coincides with the run-up to the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

HEALTH RISK?

U.S. abortion rights activists have vowed to go to court to block enforcement of the Alabama law, which is scheduled to take effect in six months.

Should the Missouri measure win final passage in the House it would go into effect on Aug. 28, with or without the governor’s signature.

Dubbed the Missouri Stands for the Unborn bill, it passed the Senate on Thursday in a party-line vote, with 24 Republicans supporting it and 10 Democrats opposed.

In common with the Alabama bill, it would outlaw abortion even in the case of rape or incest. Violations by doctors would be punishable by prison sentences, though women who seek out the procedure would not be subject to criminal prosecution.

The measure also would ban abortions altogether except for medical emergencies should Roe v. Wade be overturned.

As of May, legislation to restrict abortions has been introduced in at least 16 states this year. Governors in four have signed bills into law banning the procedure if an embryonic heartbeat can be detected, generally considered to be as early as six weeks.

Abortion-rights activists argue that rolling back 45 years of legal precedent to criminalize abortion would expose many women to dangerous health risks posed by illegal abortion providers.

Some Republicans pushing for abortion restrictions acknowledge they are deliberately doing so to instigate court challenges that will ultimately force the Supreme Court to reconsider Roe v. Wade.

It held that the due process clause of the 14th Amendment provides a fundamental right to privacy that protects a woman’s right to abortion.

It also allowed states to place restrictions on the procedure from the time a fetus could viably survive outside the womb. The opinion stated that viability is usually placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles and Rich McKay in Atlanta; editing by John Stonestreet)

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