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Appeals court rules against Missouri's restrictive 'heartbeat' abortion ban

A woman walks past the Planned Parenthood facility in St. Louis on May 30, 2019, the location of Missouri's only abortion clinic. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
A woman walks past the Planned Parenthood facility in St. Louis on May 30, 2019, the location of Missouri's only abortion clinic. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

June 9 (UPI) -- A federal appellate court on Wednesday ruled against Missouri's so-called "heartbeat" abortion law, which prevents the procedure after eight weeks of pregnancy in most cases.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower judge's ruling in 2019 blocking the law.

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Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed the law in May 2019 banning most abortions if a fetal heartbeat can be detected. The law also banned abortions solely because of a diagnosis of down syndrome or because of the baby's gender or race.

If a physician failed to check for a fetal heartbeat before performing an abortion, he or she would face revocation of their medical licenses along with a $1,000 fine. Doctors also could be sent to prison for up to 15 years.

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It was one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a lawsuit against the law on behalf of Reproductive Health Services, called the ruling a "victory."

"Missourians are fair and reasonable folks who understand that we are not a free people if the government can ban abortion. We share their relief that politicians' attempt to disguise a ban by pretending it is a minor regulation did not fool the Court of Appeals," said Tony Rothert of the ACLU of Missouri.

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"Despite being caught today, Missouri's agenda-driven politicians are unlikely to end their dishonest crusade against reproductive healthcare. While we celebrate today, we are prepared to defend Missourians from the next government intrusion into private lives tomorrow."

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said he plans to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"My son Stephen 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. I have never and will never stop fighting to ensure that all life is protected," Schmitt said.

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