(The Center Square) – Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt on Thursday formally asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review a 2019 Missouri law that bans abortion at eight weeks and criminalizes “eugenic abortions” based on prenatal screenings.
“A pre-natal diagnosis of Down syndrome should not be a death sentence,” Schmitt said in a statement. “It’s my hope the Supreme Court will grant our petition for writ of certiorari and hear this critically important case.”
The Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act, House Bill 126, sponsored by Rep. Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon, was adopted in partisan votes and imposed 17 new restrictions and requirements on abortion.
In addition to forbidding abortion at eight weeks, HB 126 criminalizes abortions sought solely because a prenatal diagnosis, test, or screening, indicating Down syndrome or the potential of Down syndrome in a fetus.
Physicians who perform abortions after the eight weeks could face up to 15 years in prison under the law, which also imposes a statewide abortion ban immediately if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.
In July 2019, before HB 126 could be enacted, Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, the state’s only abortion provider, challenged the law, claiming it would “directly violate long-standing Supreme Court precedent” and calling it an extension of “Missouri’s unrelenting campaign to deny patients the health care they seek and to which they are entitled.”
The following month, U.S. Western District of Missouri Judge Howard Sachs granted Planned Parenthood’s request for an injunction, stopping the law from being enacted.
”While federal courts should generally be very cautious before delaying the effect of state laws, the sense of caution may be mitigated when the legislation seems designed, as here, as a protest against Supreme Court decisions,” Sachs wrote. “The hostility to, and refusal to comply with, the Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence is most obviously demonstrated in the attempt to push ‘viability’ protection downward in various weekly stages to 8 weeks.”
The state appealed Sach’s ruling to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. On June 9, a three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit rejected the state’s argument that HB 126 doesn’t ban pre-viability abortions but merely regulates them, and upheld injunction.
Because there is nothing an individual can do under Missouri law to obtain an abortion after the eight-week cutoff, the panel ruled the law is “categorically unconstitutional.”
Schmitt, among Republicans vying for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated in 2022 by the retiring Roy Blunt, said on June 9 that he was “disappointed” in the ruling but buoyed that it offered “an avenue for this case to be heard by the Supreme Court, and we plan to seek review in the Supreme Court.”
On Thursday, Schmitt fulfilled that pledge by filling a petition that claims, “Unborn children with Down syndrome are aborted at epidemic rates. Medicalized discrimination and directive counseling contribute heavily to their elimination.”
He asked the Court to answer three questions:
- Whether Missouri’s restriction on abortions performed solely because the unborn child may have Down syndrome is categorically invalid under Casey and Roe v. Wade or whether it is a valid, reasonable regulation of abortion that seeks to prevent the elimination of children with Down syndrome through eugenic abortion?
- Whether Missouri’s restrictions on abortions performed after eight, 14, 18, and 20 weeks’ gestational age are categorically invalid, or whether they are valid, reasonable regulations of abortion that advance important state interests?
- Whether the “penumbral” right to abortion recognized in Roe v. Wade, and partially reaffirmed in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, should be overruled?