Missouri Governor Mike Parson called on state senators to take action on a bill to ban abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy, the latest Republican-dominated US state emboldened by the possibility that a more conservative Supreme Court could overturn its landmark ruling legalising the procedure.
The Missouri proposal includes exceptions for medical emergencies, but not for pregnancies caused by rape or incest. Doctors would face five to 15 years in prison for violating the eight-week cutoff. Women who receive abortions at eight weeks or later into a pregnancy wouldn't be prosecuted.
Parson said the bill gives Missouri the chance to be "one of the strongest pro-life states in the country".
Senate Democrats attacked the bill before Republican supporters had a chance to bring it up for debate on the Senate floor. Lawmakers face a deadline tomorrow to pass legislation. "So much of this bill is just shaming women into some kind of complacency that says we are vessels of pregnancy rather than understanding that women's lives all hold different stories," Democratic Senator Jill Schupp said.
Missouri is among several states where abortion opponents are working with renewed enthusiasm following US President Donald Trump's appointment of more conservative high court justices.
Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia have approved bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur in about the sixth week of pregnancy. Similar restrictions in North Dakota and Iowa have been struck down in court.
Alabama's Governor Kay Ivey yesterday signed the most stringent abortion ban in the US, making performing an abortion a crime in nearly all cases. "To the bill's many supporters, this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians' deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God," she said.
Supporters say the Alabama bill is intentionally designed to conflict with the 1973 Roe versus Wade decision that legalised abortion nationally in hopes of sparking a court case that might prompt the justices to revisit abortion rights.
Missouri's bill also includes an outright ban on abortions except in cases of medical emergencies. But that would kick in only if Roe versus Wade is overturned.
If courts don't allow Missouri's proposed eight-week ban to take effect, it includes a ladder of less-restrictive time limits ranging from 14 to 20 weeks. Roe versus Wade legalised abortion up until viability, usually at 22 to 24 weeks.
Other provisions include a ban on abortions based on race, sex or a "prenatal diagnosis, test, or screening indicating Down Syndrome or the potential of Down Syndrome." The bill would also require that both parents be notified for a minor to get an abortion, with exceptions. Current law requires written consent from only one parent.
Democrats and abortion rights advocates criticised the Alabama bill as a slap in the face to women voters. "It just completely disregards women and the value of women and their voice. We have once again silenced women on a very personal issue," said Democratic Senator Linda Coleman-Madison. She said she hopes the measure awakens a "sleeping giant" of women voters in the state.
Republican pollster Chris Kratzer noted that there is no congressional district and likely no legislative district with enough swing voters to put Republicans at serious risk in the state.