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Parson signs sweeping anti-abortion bill into law during private ceremony

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Gov. Mike Parson signed a restrictive anti-abortion bill into law during a private ceremony Friday, banning the practice after eight weeks.

The law allows for exemptions in cases of a “medical emergency” but not in cases of rape or incest — one of the most controversial components of the legislation.

While HB 126 bans abortions after eight weeks, it includes many “nestled” components to include restrictions at 14, 18, and 20 weeks should a court overturn a portion of the law.

Should Roe v. Wade — the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared a woman’s constitutional right to privacy includes medical decisions such as abortion — be overturned, abortions would be illegal outright in Missouri, a state that already only has one clinic.

Doctors who violate the law, which goes into effect Aug. 28, could face up to 15 years in prison. Women would not be prosecuted.

Additionally, the law does not allow for abortions based on race, sex, or a diagnosis of Down Syndrome. It also includes an emergency clause — which goes into effect immediately — requiring written notification for consent from a parent or guardian from the custodial parent or guardian for minors.

Currently, Missouri has a so-called “viability ban,” meaning a pregnancy can’t be terminated if it’s deemed viable.

“By signing this bill today, we are sending a strong signal to the nation that, in Missouri, we stand for life, protect women’s health, and advocate for the unborn,” Parson said in a statement. “All life has value and is worth protecting.”

Parson was joined by Republican legislators during the signing of the bill but did not hold a public event. The signing came while the city is still reeling from the aftermath of a destructive tornado that ripped through homes and businesses earlier this week.

Following its signage, Republicans — particularly the Senate Conservative Caucus — cheered its success.

“Not only does this legislation protect the lives of unborn children, but it will provide even greater access to vital resources and support to women and families facing an unplanned pregnancy,” Sen. Andrew Koenig, who was largely credited for handling negotiations regarding the bill in the Senate, said Friday morning.

“I thank Gov. Parson for signing the Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act today,” House Speaker Elijah Haahr told The Missouri Times. “His swift action on this legislation is a clear message that Missouri values every life, including the unborn.”

“With today’s signing, Missouri’s law will reflect the values of Missourians across the state that believe every child is a gift from God and deserving of the fundamental Constitutional right to life.”

“The General Assembly has worked tirelessly over the last few months to send the Governor the boldest and most comprehensive pro-life bill in the country to stand for those without a voice,” he added. “With today’s signing, Missouri’s law will reflect the values of Missourians across the state that believe every child is a gift from God and deserving of the fundamental Constitutional right to life.”

But Democrats immediately blasted the bill. House Minority Leader Crystal Quade said the law “now requires people to remain pregnant against their will, treating them as little more than fetal incubators with no rights or role in the decision.”

“We cannot claim to be a free society when the heavy hand of government is used to crush individual liberty and subject us to the mandates of official state doctrine,” she said.

“With this new law, the governor and his Republican Party have shown they don’t trust women, and are too extreme for most Missourians.”

“He has signed a law to take away a woman’s choice before she even knows she’s pregnant,” Democratic Sen. Jill Schupp said in a statement. Along with Sen. Lauren Arthur, Schupp largely led a Democratic filibuster against the bill earlier this month, decrying the lack of exemptions. “With this new law, the governor and his Republican Party have shown they don’t trust women, and are too extreme for most Missourians.”

Not every Republican was supportive of the restrictive measure, however. Rep. Shamed Dogan was the only Republican to vote against the bill — citing his constituents’ concerns for the lack of exemptions for rape and incest survivors. He said he had “searched his conscience” before his notable vote.

And businessman and philanthropist David Humphreys, a massive Republican donor in Missouri, had encouraged Parson to rethink his support of the bill in a surprising memo earlier this week.

“While I am personally opposed to abortion, I do support a women’s right to choose, particularly in the case of rape or incest,” Humphreys had said. “And I have to believe that the politicians in Jeff City that voted for this bill would themselves support their wives or daughters’ right to choose if their loved ones were raped.”

On Thursday, Humphreys donated $25,000 to Dogan’s Next Gen GOP PAC. It wasn’t the first time he’s contributed to the St. Louis County Republican, but the donation backed up his public opposition to a bill that became a bedrock of Missouri Republicans’ priorities this year.

“He’s given to the PAC before because he supports our mission of electing more women, minority, and younger Republicans. It’s especially clear now that we need more women’s voices in our caucus and in leadership positions in the legislature,” Dogan told The Missouri Times.

M’Evie Mead, director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Missouri, promised to continue to fight the law.

“People need to know that this ban is not in effect — yet,” she said. “Abortion is still legal in this state and Planned Parenthood Advocates will do everything we can to protect access to abortion in Missouri — and hold these extreme politicians accountable for their attacks on our health care.”

Other responses to the bill signing:

  • Republican Sen. Bill Eigel, a member of the Conservative Caucus: “I would like to thank Governor Parson for signing HB 126 which is among the strongest pro-life bills in the country. Today’s signature represents a major victory for the pro-life movement and the Republican Party as the legislation will soon become law and effectively end the institution of abortion in the state of Missouri. When I campaigned for office, I told my constituents I would fight to protect life and work to end abortions in this state. I am thankful we were able to enact such meaningful legislation this session on this front and will look forward to future opportunities to protect life next session.”
  • Republican Sen. Denny Hoskins, a member of the Conservative Caucus: “Thank you Gov. Parson for signing the pro-life bill. As the parent of a minor child, I’m glad the provision for notification of the second parent when a minor is considering an abortion was included in the bill. As a dad, I have the right to know if my daughter is having surgery.”
  • Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin, a member of the Conservative Caucus: “I appreciate the Governor standing up for the sanctity of life. Abortion allows a totally innocent human to lose their life for a decision they did not make. It is simply wrong and I applaud the Governor [for] taking this stand.”
  • ACLU of Missouri Legislative and Policy Director Sara Baker: “With Governor’s Parson’s decision to sign HB 126, he joins the other out of touch Republican leaders who fail to protect the right to an abortion even in cases of rape and incest. This legislation puts politicians in the exam room and challenges the basic autonomy of Missourians. It is unconstitutional, and it must be stopped.”
  • Missouri Democratic Party Chair Jean Peters Baker: “As a prosecuting attorney, I’ve seen first-hand the toll that rape, incest, and unplanned pregnancies take on women. It’s not the government or Governor Mike Parson’s place to get involved in a woman’s personal medical decisions about her pregnancy. This is an extreme, unconstitutional ban that is cruel to women, including women who are survivors of rape and incest. Sadly, this is the next extreme step in the evolution of the party of Todd Akin. Across Missouri we’re seeing a profound visceral reaction to the Governor’s broad expansion of the denial of the right to choose and this ultra-extremist legislation. We support a woman’s right to choose. Period. We will and we must hold Governor Mike Parson and Republicans in the Missouri Legislature accountable for this disgusting policy.”