A Missouri state court has ordered the suspension of several provisions of a law passed by the state government, introduced earlier this year and due to take effect Wednesday, aimed at restricting access to abortion.
The court decision comes after social organizations such as Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued Missouri’s state government on July 30, alleging that authorities were ultimately trying to prevent access to abortion.
These organizations alleged that the so-called “heartbeat law,” which includes penalties for those who perform an abortion procedure after eight weeks of gestation, effectively prevents many women from accessing these services because they are not yet aware of their status.
District Judge Howard Sachs’ ruling assumes that the law, which provided for exceptions under special circumstances, but not in cases of incest or rape, means that the new legislation cannot take effect until courts issue a final judgment.
The magistrate, however, has given the green light to the enactment of the law’s provisions prohibiting termination of pregnancy on the basis of race and gender of the fetus.
“Today’s decision blocks a dangerous law that prohibits abortion before many people know they are pregnant. The little access to abortion that still exists in Missouri will remain unchanged for the time being,” Alexis McGill Johnson, interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, said in a statement released by the organization.
In recent months, numerous states across the country have joined a legislative wave that, in practice, seeks to make it impossible for many women to access abortion services.
“Let’s be very clear: these severe restrictions on access to abortion do nothing to address disability or discrimination. They only stigmatize abortion and shame people who seek that care,” Johnson said.
Because of state measures passed in recent years, access to affordable reproductive services has declined dramatically, and in six states – Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, West Virginia, North Dakota and South Dakota – there is only one abortion clinic left.