Missouri governor signs bill banning abortions at 8 weeks

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Friday signed a bill that bans abortions on or beyond the eighth week of pregnancy without exceptions for cases of rape or incest, making it among the most restrictive abortion policies in the nation.

Under the law that comes into force Aug. 28, doctors who violate the eight-week cutoff could face five to 15 years in prison. A legal challenge is expected, although it's unclear when that might occur.

The measure includes exceptions for medical emergencies, such as when there is a risk of death or permanent physical injuries to "a major bodily function of the pregnant woman." But women who find themselves pregnant

Parson defended the lack of exceptions for rape and incest to a group of abortion opponents gathered Friday in his Capitol office.

"Is it a terrible thing that happens in those situations? Yes it is. ... But the reality of it is bad things do happen sometimes. But you have two months to decide what you're going to do with that issue, and I believe in two months you can make a decision," he said.

Missouri businessman David Humphreys, a wealthy Republican donor, had urged Parson to veto the bill, calling it "bad public policy" to not have exceptions for rape or incest.

Missouri state House Democratic Minority Leader Crystal Quade said in a written statement the law treats women "as little more than fetal incubators with no rights or role in the decision, even in cases of rape and incest."

Alabama's governor

Unlike Alabama's near-total abortion ban, lawmakers who helped draft the

Missouri's bill also includes an outright ban on abortions except in cases of medical emergencies, but that would kick in only if Supreme Court's landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion is overturned.

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Missouri Director M'Evie Mead said the organization "will do everything we can to protect access to abortion in Missouri — and hold these extreme politicians accountable for their attacks on our health care."

Missouri already has some of the nation's most restrictive abortion regulations, including a requirement that doctors performing abortions have partnerships with nearby hospitals. Missouri is down to one clinic performing abortions, which is in St. Louis.

A total of 3,903 abortions occurred in Missouri in 2017, the last full year for which the state Department of Health and Senior Services has statistics online. Of those, 1,673 occurred at under nine weeks and 119 occurred at 20 weeks or later in a pregnancy.

A total of 2,910 abortions occurred in 2018 in Missouri, according to the agency.

The bill also bans abortions based solely on race, sex or a diagnosis indicating the potential for Down syndrome.

It also requires a parent or guardian giving written consent for a minor to get an abortion to first notify the other parent, except if the other parent has been convicted of a violent or sexual crime, is subject to a protection order, is "habitually in an intoxicated or drugged condition," or lacks legal or physical custody.