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Schmitt appeals decision allowing abortions based on Down syndrome diagnosis


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has appealed a federal judge’s recent ruling allowing abortions based upon a diagnosis of Down syndrome. 

Schmitt filed the notice to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit on behalf of Gov. Mike Parson and other state officials. 

When U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs blocked most of HB 126, Missouri’s strict abortion law, from going into effect in August, he initially allowed provisions blocking so-called “reason bans” to remain intact. In other words, the provisions in HB 126 prohibiting abortions on the basis of sex, race, or a diagnosis of Down syndrome remained. 

Sachs reversed course on Friday, however, regarding the prohibition of abortions based on a diagnosis of Down syndrome for “non-viable fetuses,” citing potential further back-and-forth in courts. 

“We are grateful the court has granted an expanded injunction against this unconstitutional abortion ban,” Dr. Colleen McNicholas, chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said. “Moreover, our patients are grateful.” 

When Sachs, who was appointed to the court by former President Jimmy Carter, originally left in place the provision, Schmitt praised the decision. 

“[A]s the father of a child with special needs, Attorney General Schmitt is particularly sensitive to suggestions that an unborn child who will have special needs is any lesser of a human being, and we’re glad that provisions relating to that issue were left in place in the judge’s ruling today,” Chris Nuelle, a spokesman for the office, had said.

In regards to the state’s appeal, Sam Lee, director of the anti-abortion Campaign Life Missouri, said Tuesday: “The fight to protect disabled children through the passage of pro-life laws is not over yet!” 

HB 126 banned abortions after eight weeks except in the case of a medical emergency. It included “nestled” components — designed to withstand court challenges — with restrictions at 14, 18, and 20 weeks. It also would ban abortions outright should the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade be overturned. 

Last month, Sachs also blocked a partial stay requesting the 20-week ban go into effect.