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Federal Judge Denies Missouri's Request To Let Abortion Ban Take Effect

A volunteer with Coalition for Life St. Louis protests outside the Planned Parenthood clinic.
Carolina Hidalgo
St. Louis Public Radio
A volunteer with Coalition for Life St. Louis protests outside the Planned Parenthood clinic.

A federal judge’s order blocking Missouri’s 20-week abortion ban from taking effect will remain in place while the state appeals.

Senior U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs on Wednesday denied the state’s request for a partial stay of his order, which he handed down last month.

The Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis, Missouri’s only remaining abortion provider, and its medical director, Colleen McNicholas, had challenged the constitutionality of the ban, which the legislature enacted earlier this year.

Sachs granted their motion for a preliminary injunction, finding that they were likely to prevail on the merits.

While striking down the gestational ban, Sachs allowed the law’s “non-discrimination” section to stand. That section prohibits abortions on the basis of race, sex or Down syndrome.

The gestational ban, had it been allowed to take effect, would have banned most pre-viability abortions in Missouri.

In denying the state’s request to put his preliminary injunction on hold, Sachs wrote: “For more than forty years the Supreme Court has recognized a right under the Constitution for women to make the ultimate decision regarding abortion of non-viable fetuses. There is no such legal right in the Federal Court system for preserving the potential lives of non-viable fetuses.”

The state questioned the plaintiffs’ legal standing to challenge the abortion ban on behalf of their patients. But Sachs noted that no such challenge has been upheld by any federal court.

Missouri’s ban, one of a spate of “fetal heartbeat” bills enacted this year by various states, prohibits abortions at eight, 14, 18 and 20 weeks of gestation. If the eight-week ban is struck down, the 14-week ban takes effect and so on with the other bans.

Missouri asked Sachs to put his preliminary injunction on hold only with respect to the 20-week ban.

Planned Parenthood, however, may not be out of the woods.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, to which Missouri has appealed Sachs’ preliminary injunction, could decide to pause his order while it considers the case.

Dan Margolies is a senior reporter and editor at KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.

Copyright 2021 KCUR 89.3. To see more, visit KCUR 89.3.

Dan was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. and moved to Kansas City with his family when he was eight years old. He majored in philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis and holds law and journalism degrees from Boston University. He has been an avid public radio listener for as long as he can remember – which these days isn’t very long… Dan has been a two-time finalist in The Gerald Loeb Awards for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism, and has won multiple regional awards for his legal and health care coverage. Dan doesn't have any hobbies as such, but devours one to three books a week, assiduously works The New York Times Crossword puzzle Thursdays through Sundays and, for physical exercise, tries to get in a couple of rounds of racquetball per week.