The ACLU of Missouri announced Aug. 15 that it won’t attempt to collect signatures to put a recently passed abortion law on the ballot for a referendum vote. HB 126, known as the “Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act,” is a sweeping measure that includes numerous pro-life provisions that protect the lives of the unborn and the health and safety of mothers.
Referendum proponents would have needed to collect more than 100,000 signatures (five percent of voters in six of Missouri’s eight congressional districts) by Aug. 28. That’s the date the bill is expected to take effect, pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood, which challenges certain provisions of HB 126. The case is expected to be heard in federal court in Kansas City on Aug. 26.
The bill’s provisions include:
• a ban on abortion at later gestations, between 14 and 20 weeks, if the eight-week ban is struck down by the courts. Missouri law prohibits abortions after viability, which is determined by a physician. Planned Parenthood in St. Louis limits abortions up to 21 weeks and six days; although statistics on abortion from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services show that some abortions have been performed at 21 weeks and later;
• enactment of the “Right to Life of the Unborn Child Act,” which would ban all abortions in Missouri if Roe vs. Wade is overturned, or a federal Human Life Amendment is adopted or a federal Human Life bill is enacted;
• a ban on abortions for reasons including Down syndrome, race or gender;
• an increase on medical malpractice insurance requirements for those who perform or induce abortions and additional insurance requirements for doctors who induce abortions using chemicals or drugs;
• recognition that “almighty God is the author of life” and that Missouri is a “sanctuary of life” that protects pregnant women and unborn children.
• an expansion of the tax credit program for pregnancy resource centers. The program will now allow 70 percent of a donation to be tax-credit eligible; there will be “no limit imposed on the cumulative amount of tax credits that may be claimed by all taxpayers contributing to pregnancy resource centers,” beginning Jan. 1, 2021.
The bill has an exception in cases where the mother is at risk of death or serious physical harm. However, there is no exception for cases of rape or incest.
A provision requiring a second custodial parent to be notified when a minor is seeking an abortion (with certain exceptions) already went into effect in May.
Meanwhile, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America announced Aug. 19 it is withdrawing from the federal Title X program over the Trump administration’s “Protect Life Rule” barring these funds from being used for promoting or providing abortion as family planning.
Planned Parenthood called the rule a “gag order” on its operations that needed to be lifted. It said Aug. 14 it would withdraw from the program if it did not get “emergency judicial relief” in the form of an injunction from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to keep the new policy from taking effect. The San Francisco-based court did not do that.
The administration “is trying to force us to keep information from our patients. The gag rule is unethical, dangerous, and we will not subject our patients to it,” Planned Parenthood wrote in its Aug. 19 statement. It will no longer receive $60 million of the $286 million allocated annually through Title X.
Catholic News Service contributed to this story.