Missouri lawmakers passed a bill Friday to ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, the latest in a flurry of anti-abortion measures across the country intended to mount direct challenges to federal protections for the procedure.
The Missouri House passed H.B. 126 in a 110-to-44 vote after hours of heated debate, including impassioned speeches by both Democratic and Republican legislators and angry shouts of “when you lie, people die” from those who opposed the bill. Those protesters were eventually removed by the police.
The measure, known as the Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act, now moves to the desk of Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, who is expected to sign it. The bill, which bans abortions at around eight weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman even knows she is pregnant, included no exceptions for rape or incest.
The passage of the bill was the culmination of long years of effort by the anti-abortion movement in the state, and Republican lawmakers voted for it overwhelmingly. One of them, Representative Holly Rehder, a Republican from southeast Missouri, implied in her speech that rape and incest were not reasons for exceptions. “To stand on this floor and say, ‘How could someone look at a child of rape or incest and care for them?’” she said. “I can say how we can do that. We can do that with the love of God.”
Samuel Lee, an anti-abortion lobbyist who watched from one of the galleries, said the bill’s debate and passage was “pretty solemn.”
“People weren’t walking in and out of the chamber chattering, as they usually are,” he said. “People were in their seats. It was tense and there was some crying on both sides.”
Representative Ian Mackey, a Democrat from St. Louis County, was vehemently opposed to the bill, and said in a passionate address to his colleagues: “Women brought all of us into this world, and I sure hope they vote all of us out.”
Later, in a telephone interview, he said that Friday’s vote was the “day when it finally hit home that, ‘Oh my God, my state is also participating in the effort to overturn Roe v. Wade,’” the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case that established federal protections for abortion.
With the House vote on Friday, Missouri became the fifth state this year to pass a heartbeat bill, legislation devised to present a frontal challenge to that case. The adoption of such laws was once extremely rare, but the confirmation last fall of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court tipped the court’s balance in favor of conservatives, and a wave of anti-abortion bills were introduced this year.
Earlier this week, the governor of Alabama, Kay Ivey, signed the nation’s most restrictive anti-abortion measure, effectively banning the procedure in the state.
[Read about states rushing to restrict abortion, or to protect it.]
Elsewhere in the country, Republican lawmakers have passed, at a rapid pace, other restrictive bills. Still, none will immediately go into effect. Heartbeat bills that had been passed in Iowa and North Dakota were reversed after court challenges. And Kentucky’s bill, which passed this year, was suspended by a judge.
Dr. David Eisenberg, the medical director of Reproductive Health Services, a Planned Parenthood clinic in Missouri that is the last abortion provider in the state, said he is worried that the state’s bill, even though it might not go into effect, has already left women with the impression that abortion is no longer legal in Missouri.
In a phone interview on Friday morning, Dr. Eisenberg said he wanted women in his state to know that “our doors are open and we are still providing abortions here.”
Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia also have banned the procedure once fetal cardiac activity is detected. Several states determined that to be around six weeks, two weeks earlier than Missouri.
Under the Missouri law, doctors who perform abortions would be prosecuted and could be sentenced to prison for anywhere between five and 15 years. Women who seek abortions will not be prosecuted.
Friday’s passage represents a significant victory in a more than 40-year campaign by opponents. About six of the roughly two dozen abortion cases that have been heard by the Supreme Court have come from the state, according to Mr. Lee, the lobbyist.
[A guide to what is likely to come after Alabama’s abortion bill.]
Dr. Eisenberg, who has watched abortion access erode over the years as the State Legislature has passed regulation after regulation, said that Missouri, with its lone clinic, was a kind of postcard from the future in which federal protections for abortion were no longer the laws of the land.
“People are asking me, ‘What do we do if Roe is overturned?’” he said. “My answer is, ‘Come see what it’s like in Missouri. We are already dealing with it. The future is here for us.’”
While most state Republicans voted in favor of H.B. 126, some did not, including Representative Shamed Dogan, who represents St. Louis County. While he initially supported the bill, he said he had a change of heart because it failed to include exceptions for rape and incest.
“I really struggled with this one,” he said. But when he started getting calls and emails from constituents, he decided to oppose the measure, despite supporting a number of the other provisions in the bill.
Missouri’s bill included bans on abortions based on race, sex and Down syndrome diagnosis. It also includes a tax credit for donations to pregnancy centers run by abortion opponents, and a requirement that both parents be notified when a minor seeks an abortion. Current law requires consent from only one parent.