Court hears “Missouri Stands for the Unborn”

By Dave Andrusko

In an usual move, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals decided in July to re-hear a three judge panel decision blocking “Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act” in front of all 11 judges. Yesterday the full court heard the decision by U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs prohibiting Missouri from enforcing the law’s provisions, a decision that was handed down the day before the law was to take effect, a verdicg subsequently upheld in June by the panel.

Judge Sachs struck down two sets of provisions. This first prohibits abortions when the abortionist knows it is sought because the baby has Down syndrome. The second would prohibit most abortions at eight, 14, 18 and 20 weeks of gestation.

Judge Sachs initially allowed the state to enforce the provision banning abortions based on a pre-natal diagnosis of Down Syndrome but later reversed his ruling. Schmitt’s office then appealed to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirmed that ruling.

Judge David Stras, one of the three judge panel who concurred in part and dissented in part, began by noting that

A preliminary injunction is hard to get, all the more so when the target is a democratically enacted state law. The court makes it easy, however, by relaxing the rules to let Reproductive Health Services have one, despite its failure to show a “threat of irreparable harm” from Missouri’s Down Syndrome Provision. I would apply the usual rules and vacate the injunction.

Later Judge Stras elaborates on the key requirement of the law — that the abortionist has “knowledge that a Down Syndrome diagnosis is the sole reason for an abortion.”

Arguing in front of the full bench on Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Schmitt said, “We are hopeful that we are on the right side of this issue, and we are going to continue to fight for those most vulnerable among us.”

He added, “I think that every individual deserves the right to live their life and pursue happiness including those with Down syndrome.” Schmidt, “This is modern-day eugenics, this is discriminating to the most extreme level of the elimination of an entire class of people because of a trait.”

Why the focus on Down syndrome? That’s a relatively new issue for the courts.