Government & Politics

Missouri Gov. Parson signs bill that criminalizes abortion after 8 weeks of pregnancy

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed a bill Friday morning criminalizing abortion after eight weeks of pregnancy, forgoing a public event and instead ratifying the new law in a private ceremony in his Capitol office.

The move comes one day after one of the Missouri GOP’s most prolific donors vowed to bankroll efforts to repeal the new law if Parson didn’t veto it.

Parson’s spokesman, Steele Shippy, said the governor had intended to hold public events to sign the legislation but changed plans because of recent severe weather around the state, including a tornado near the statehouse in Jefferson City.

“We made the decision and believed it was more important to ensure our office remained focused on assisting communities in the wake of disaster and facing widespread flooding,” Shippy said in an email to The Star.

The bill would criminalize any abortion beyond eight weeks of pregnancy, except in cases of medical emergencies. Doctors who perform abortions after eight weeks face five to 15 years in prison. Now that it has been signed into law, the ban will go into effect Aug. 28 unless it is blocked by a court.

It does not include any exemptions for victims of rape or incest, a fact that prompted Joplin businessman and GOP mega donor David Humphreys to publicly denounce the legislation on Thursday and demand Parson veto it.

Humphreys, who along with his family have donated $15 million to Republican candidates and causes since 2015, could not be immediately reached for comment on Friday. A source close to him said Thursday he would fund an effort to put the new law on the ballot in 2020.

“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.”

In addition to the eight-week abortion ban, the bill also bars abortion after 14 weeks, 18 weeks and then 20 weeks as a fail-safe if the eight-week ban is struck down by the courts.

If there is a medical emergency during the third trimester, physicians must attempt to save the child.

The measure also establishes criminal penalties for abortions sought solely because of a prenatal diagnosis, test, or screening indicating Down Syndrome or the potential of Down Syndrome in an unborn child.

And the bill doubles the amount of medical malpractice insurance an abortion provider is required to have and requires physicians who perform medication abortions to have “tail insurance,” which continues to cover them after they’ve retired or changed employers.

Sen. Jill Schupp, D-St. Louis County, said by signing the bill the governor has “outlawed abortion for all women, including victims of rape and incest.”

“He has signed a law to take away a woman’s choice before she even knows she’s pregnant,” Schupp said. “With this new law, the Governor and his Republican Party have shown they don’t trust women, and are too extreme for most Missourians.”

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said the new law “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.”

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