A federal judge said he will issue a ruling Tuesday that will determine whether Missouri's new abortion law banning abortions at or after eight weeks of pregnancy will take effect as scheduled this week.
During a court hearing on Monday, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union asked U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs to issue a temporary restraining order to stop the law from taking effect on Wednesday until a legal challenge against it is decided. Sachs told attorneys he had a draft of his written ruling ready, but that he wanted to consider Monday's arguments before issuing it on Tuesday. He did not indicate how he would rule.
The law is scheduled to take effect Wednesday. It would also ban abortions based solely on race, sex or a diagnosis indicting the potential for Down syndrome.
Claudia Hammerman, an attorney for Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that earlier abortion-related rulings from courts across the country, including the U.S. Supreme Court, make it clear the bans are unconstitutional because they address abortions before the fetus is considered viable outside the womb, which can be from 24 to 28 weeks.
"Every single court has held that banning abortions based on gestational age is unconstitutional," Hammerman said. "That is the only legally relevant issue."
State Solicitor General John Sauer argued that most abortions are performed in Missouri prior to eight weeks.
Much of his argument centered on whether Planned Parenthood and the ACLU have legal standing to oppose the law. He argued only patients have the constitutional right to file lawsuits opposing abortion laws because their rights are being violated, while Planned Parenthood and the ACLU have only a financial interest in allowing abortions.
The Missouri law in question also includes an outright ban on abortions except in cases of medical emergencies, but that would take effect only if the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide is overturned.
Missouri already has some of the nation's most restrictive abortion regulations. Just one clinic in the state performs abortions.