On Tuesday, a federal judge blocked parts of Missouri’s “omnibus” pro-life law. Here’s what you need to know, and what you can do about it. First, what does this law say?
Missouri’s “Omnibus” Pro-Life Law, HB 126
This spring Missouri legislators introduced a slew of pro-life bills; these were largely rolled up into a single bill (hence the term “omnibus”), House Bill 126, which was signed into law by Governor Mike Parson on May 24th.
Here are the parts of the law that Planned Parenthood challenged:
- Bans an abortionist from doing an abortion at the point when medical science indicates the unborn child is capable of feeling pain in the womb (20 weeks*), except in cases of a medical emergency for the mother, and requires that every effort be used (including the attendance of a second physician) to preserve the life of the baby (188.375)
- Recognizing fetal heartbeat and other markers of fetal development (188.026), it bans an abortionist from doing an abortion after 8 weeks (188.056), 14 weeks (188.057), and 18 weeks (188.058)
- Bans abortionists from doing an abortion if the mother is motivated by the sex or Down syndrome diagnosis of her baby (188.038)
(Each of these bans is “severable,” meaning the law was written so that if any of the bans at 8, 14, 18, and 20 weeks is struck down by a court, the remaining provisions stand. The clear legislative intent of the bill was to force the federal courts to consider each ban individually, in order to ban as many abortions as the courts will allow.)
Here’s what else the law did that Planned Parenthood didn’t challenge:
- Expands parental consent to require other-parent notification for minors seeking abortions (with an emergency clause) (188.028)
- Requires abortionists to first tell mothers that their unborn child can feel pain at 20 weeks (188.027)
- Requires that all informed-consent materials be made available to women referred for an out-of-state abortion (188.033)
- Increases the amount of medical malpractice insurance that abortionists must carry (188.043-44)
- Increases reporting requirements for abortionists to include the gestational age, method of abortion, results of test for fetal heartbeat, etc. for each abortion (188.052)
- Extends the existing 50 percent tax credit for donations to pregnancy resource centers (135.630)
- Bans all abortions (except in cases of certifiable medical emergency for the mother) if Roe is overturned, or the Constitution is amended to permit this provision to take effect, or if Congress passes a law which would permit this provision to take effect (188.017; see also bill Section B)
All of the unchallenged portions of the law, as well as the ban on sex-selective or Downs diagnosis-motivated abortions, went into effect Wednesday.
What Did the Court Do?
On Tuesday, a federal district court preliminarily enjoined the first two provisions of the law mentioned above, preventing any of the bans on abortion at 8, 14, 18, and 20 weeks from going into effect while the law is being litigated in court. A preliminary injunction is not a final ruling; it means the judge finds it likely, at this stage, that—among other factors—the enjoined provisions will cause “irreparable harm” to Planned Parenthood, and that under current Supreme Court precedent those provisions will probably not be allowed to stand in the lower courts.
What Did the Court NOT Say?
The preliminary injunction is not a final ruling, and the judge could change his mind and rule differently based on further evidence or argument.
The judge declined to block the ban on sex-selective abortion and abortion on the basis of a Down syndrome diagnosis, at least for now.
And he did not enjoin those portions of the law not challenged—notably, an expansion of parental notification, two important expansions of the informed-consent law (making sure abortion-minded mothers have as much information as possible), increasing reporting requirements and insurance requirements on abortionists, and extending an existing state tax credit for donations made to pregnancy resource centers.
Perhaps most notably of all, Missouri’s post-Roe abortion ban is now on the books, looking forward to the day when Roe v. Wade (which improperly injected an abortion “right” into the Constitution) is overturned.
What Can I Do?
Average Americans do not have as much of a direct role in the court case, but you can always pray for justice to prevail, and for the travesty of abortion in America to become unthinkable. Missourians can also click here to thank their elected representatives for protecting life and passing HB 126!