‘Trigger law’ makes Missouri first to regulate abortion after overturning of Roe v. Wade

(The Center Square) – Two of Missouri’s top Republican leaders took prescribed action Friday to regulate abortion after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe V. Wade. Missouri became the first state to prohibit doctors from performing abortions unless there was a medical emergency.

House Bill 126, signed into law by Republican Gov. Mike Parson in 2019, is a “trigger Law” with specific actions to be taken if the U.S. Supreme Court overruled, in whole or in part, Roe v. Wade. The law dictates the state’s revisor of statutes must be notified of the enactment of the law by the attorney general issuing an opinion, the governor issuing a proclamation or the adoption of a concurrent resolution by the general assembly.

Parson and Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt executed documents minutes after reports of the overturning.

“With Roe v. Wade overturned and statutory triggers provided in HB 126, we are issuing this proclamation to restore our state authority to regulate abortion and protect life,” Parson said in a statement on Friday. “Thanks to decades of conservative leaders, Missouri has become one of the most pro-life states in the nation, and our administration has always fought for the life of every unborn child. Today, our efforts have produced what generations of Missourians have worked and prayed for: Today, we have won our fight to protect innocent life.”

Section 188.017 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri contains the “Right to Life of the Unborn Child Act.” It contains a “trigger” to restore or grant Missouri authority to regulate abortion if Roe v. Wade was overturned or altered. It also could be enacted if there was an amendment to the U.S. Constitution or a law enacted by Congress restoring or granting states the authority to regulate abortion.

“With this attorney general opinion, my office has effectively ended abortion in Missouri, becoming the first state in the country to do so following the Court’s ruling,” Schmitt, a candidate for the seat of retiring U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, said in a Friday statement. “My office has been fighting to uphold the sanctity of life since I became attorney general, culminating in today’s momentous court ruling and attorney general opinion. I will continue the fight to protect all life, born and unborn.”

In addition to prohibiting doctors from performing abortions unless there is a medical emergency, “any person who knowingly performs or induces an abortion of an unborn child in violation of this subsection shall be guilty of a class B felony, as well as subject to suspension or revocation of his or her professional license by his or her professional licensing board.” Class B felonies in Missouri carry a punishment of five to 15 years in prison. The law also states a woman “upon whom an abortion is performed or induced in violation of this subsection shall not be prosecuted for a conspiracy to violate the provisions of this subsection.”

A media release from the governor said he is communicating with the attorney general to “quickly resolve” any current court challenges to House Bill 126 to prevent its implementation.

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