A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked a Missouri ban on abortions at or after eight weeks of pregnancy just hours before the law was slated to take effect.
The law was expected to be implemented on Wednesday, but U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs put a pause on the ban, citing pending court proceedings.
Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri claimed the ban was unconstitutional and filed a lawsuit in federal court. The groups argued that the ban goes against the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortions across the nation. Federal law currently allows states to ban abortions after fetuses can survive outside the womb, which can be from 24 to 28 weeks.
The Missouri law, though, also includes an outright ban on abortions except in the case of medical emergencies—a measure that would only take effect if the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade.
If the courts do not uphold the eight-week ban, the law includes a series of less-restrictive bans ranging from 14 to 20 weeks. The policy also bans abortions based solely on race, sex or a diagnosis indicating the potential for Down syndrome.
But Missouri, which already has some of the most restrictive abortion regulations in the nation, is not alone. In May, Alabama’s Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill that makes nearly all abortions in the state illegal and makes performing one a felony, punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison unless the mother’s health is at risk, with no exceptions for women impregnated by rape or incest. Alabama’s law is currently not enforceable, due to the Supreme Court’s ruling that makes abortions a constitutional right.
Also this year, Mississippi’s Republican Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bill that outlaws most abortion procedures once a fetal heartbeat can be detected. The law makes it illegal for a woman to have an abortion after approximately six weeks of pregnancy. That law was blocked by a federal judge in May.
And Ohio, Arkansas, and Kentucky passed similar measures—both of which were blocked by federal judges this summer.
Meanwhile, states like New York, Virginia, New Mexico, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Washington have either passed new laws expanding abortion access or are moving toward stripping old laws from the books that limit abortions.
In New York, non-doctors are now allowed to conduct abortions and the procedure can be done until the mother's due date if the woman's health is endangered or if the fetus is not viable. The previous law only allowed abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy if a woman's life was at risk.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.