Missouri Governor Signs Bill Banning Abortions After Heartbeat is Detected

Missouri Governor Signs Bill Banning Abortions After Heartbeat is Detected
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson delivers his State of the State address in Jefferson City, Mo., on Jan. 16, 2019. (Charlie Riedel/AP Photo)

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed a bill that makes it illegal to perform abortions after the heartbeat of an unborn baby is detected.

Parson signed the legislation on May 24.

“By signing this bill today, we are sending a strong signal to the nation that, in Missouri, we stand for life, protect women’s health, and advocate for the unborn,” Parson said in a statement. “All life has value and is worth protecting.”

“Thanks to decades of pro-life leadership, Missouri recently hit an all-time low for the number of abortions. We’ve gone from a high of more than 20,000 in our state, to now below 3,000. By working together, we can continue to assist more Missourians in choosing life,” he added.

Among the critics of the bill, Missouri House Minority Leader Crystal Quade said in a statement: “Missouri law now requires people to remain pregnant against their will, treating them as little more than fetal incubators with no rights or role in the decision, even in cases of rape and incest.”

The bill does not include exceptions for rape or incest but does if the life of the prospective mother is in jeopardy. If a heartbeat is not detected, abortions are legal if completed within 96 hours of the detection test.

The bill was signed in a private ceremony. Parson’s spokesman Steele Shippy told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that a public signing event was planned but it was shifted to a private signing after the tornadoes and flooding across the state this week.

A legal expert, attorney Lowell Pearson, said that the bill will open up women who perform their own abortions after a heartbeat is detected to being charged with a crime, but Shippy said that women would not be charged in such cases.

The state House of Representatives approved the bill on May 17 with a 110-44 vote, one day after the Senate approved it 24-10.

The legislation, known as HB 126 or the “Right to Life of the Unborn Child Act,” states: “It is the intent of the general assembly of the state of Missouri to defend the right to life of all humans, born and unborn, and declares that Missouri … [is] a ‘sanctuary of life’ that protects pregnant women and their unborn children.”

The bill also outlined that if federal law is changed then “abortion shall not be permitted in the state under any circumstances.”

NTD Photo
In an illustration photo, a doctor performs an ultrasound on a pregnant woman during her visit to a gynecologist. (Jennifer Jacobs/AFP/Getty Images)

“If a total ban is not possible, abortions shall be limited to women who are less than eight weeks gestational age, with a required fetal heartbeat or brain function test.” If a court rules against the law, then it would revert to banning abortions for women after 14 weeks of gestation. If that is also challenged successfully, then the law would not permit abortions past 18 weeks gestational age.

The bill also prohibits “selective abortions due to sex, race, or a diagnosis or potential diagnosis of Down Syndrome.”

Physicians who fail to perform the heartbeat test prior to carrying out an abortion face having their medical license revoked or suspended and a $1,000 fine. Any physician who performs an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected will have his or her license revoked and any future license application denied.

If a physician carries out an abortion on an unborn child at 20 weeks or later, unless the mother’s life is in danger, then the doctor would be guilty of a felony and face suspension or revocation of their license.

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