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Planned Parenthood, ACLU sue to block Missouri’s abortion ban

With less than a month to go until a new abortion law is set to go into effect, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU of Missouri have filed a lawsuit in an attempt to stop the ban. 

The joint complaint — filed Tuesday with U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri — said Missouri officials “have engaged in a targeted campaign against abortion” for years. The complaint argued Missouri’s new law is in direct contradiction to decisions already handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding abortion, including the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. 

“If HB 126 is permitted to take effect, Plaintiff’s patients will be subject to significant and irreparable constitutional, medical, emotional, and other harms for which no adequate remedy at law exists,” the lawsuit said. 

Republican Gov. Mike Parson signed HB 126 into law in May. It bans abortions after eight weeks and includes several “nestled” components — designed to withstand legal challenges — with restrictions at 14, 18, and 20 weeks. It does not include exemptions for rape or incest victims. 

The law is set to go into effect on August 28. It did include an emergency clause — triggered immediately upon Parson signing the bill — which requires both parents of a minor to be notified if she seeks an abortion. 

The suit asks for a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction to prevent the law from going into effect in four weeks. 

“Planned Parenthood will not cower to politicians who are trying to dismantle our access to safe, legal abortion — not in Missouri, and not anywhere else,” Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. “These dangerous and illegal bans put people’s health and lives at risk. We are living in a terrifying world where politicians are doing all they can to overturn Roe v. Wade — no matter how many people’s lives they put at risk.”

The suit contends Missouri women could be forced to face “significant health risks” by carrying out a pregnancy or seek unsafe abortions outside of medical professionals without the court’s intervention. 

HB 126 does include exceptions to the abortion bans in the cases of medical emergencies. 

“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 when he signed the bill. “All life has value and is worth protecting.”

Parson, Attorney General Eric Schmitt, and Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Director Randall Williams are among the defendants listed in the suit. 

“For years, anti-abortion politicians in the Missouri General Assembly have been pushing abortion care further and further out of reach. Until now, they’ve used medically unnecessary and politically-motivated restrictions as cudgel,” Tony Rothert, acting executive director and legal director of the ACLU of Missouri said. “HB 126, Missouri’s extreme and unconstitutional aboriton ban, shows us just how far they’ll go.” 

“The ACLU will not stand by while politicians emboldened by President Trump’s anti-abortion agenda exploit our health and our lives for political gain,” he continued. “We demand that the courts block these unconstitutional restrictions that criminalize abortion and shame people seeking care.” 

While Trump, a Republican, has said he is anti-abortion, he also supports exemptions in abortion bans for victims of rape and incest. 

Planned Parenthood is embroiled in another legal battle with the state over its St. Louis clinic, the lone facility in Missouri to offer abortion services. The fight stems over a licensing dispute between DHSS and Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region (RHS). Missouri’s Administrative Hearing Commission is set to hear the case in October. 

A representative for the governor did not immediately return a request for comment from The Missouri Times Tuesday evening.