Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Friday signed a bill into law that bans abortions on or beyond the eighth week of pregnancy, even in cases of rape, incest or human trafficking.
The law, known as the Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act, is among the most restrictive abortion policies in the nation. It says a non-complying doctor could be charged with a felony and face up to 15 years in prison for performing an abortion in most circumstances. Women who receive abortions would not be criminally penalized.
The legislation declares that "God is the author of life" and that the "state and all of its political subdivisions are a 'sanctuary of life' that protects pregnant women and their unborn children."
The new law is expected to come into effect Aug. 28, and it is likely to face legal hurdles.
The legislation has moved through Missouri at a time when opponents of legal access to abortion nationwide have been emboldened by the transformation of the Supreme Court with the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, which secured a conservative majority on the nation's highest court for decades to come.
It places Missouri in line with states, including Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky and Mississippi, that have passed so-called "heartbeat" bills outlawing abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can be as early as six weeks and before many women know they are pregnant. Utah and Arkansas also voted to ban the procedure after the second trimester.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, last week signed into law a ban on abortions at any time absent a medical emergency. The legislation, called the Human Life Protection Act, prohibits abortions at every stage of pregnancy, and it is poised to become the country's most restrictive abortion ban. A doctor could be charged with a felony and face up to 99 years in prison for performing an abortion in most circumstances.
The bills, along with similar proposals currently under consideration in more than a dozen other states, are the latest effort by conservatives to challenge Roe v. Wade, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision from 1973, which said a woman has a constitutional right to end a pregnancy until the fetus is developed enough to live outside the uterus.
Supporters of such restrictions say fetuses are humans and deserve human rights. Many supporters are Christians, who believe the Bible forbids most abortions.