A US federal judge has temporarily blocked a new law banning nearly all abortions in the state of Missouri after eight weeks of pregnancy from going into effect, reports say.
It was set to take effect on Wednesday.
The law would mean that abortions past eight weeks would be banned except in cases of medical emergency.
But US District Judge Howard Sachs said it was not to be enforced, pending litigation or further order of the court, Reuters reports.
The ruling to delay the law’s enforcement came amid a legal challenge by Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union. They sued Missouri last month, arguing that the law is unconstitutional and goes against the Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 decision protecting abortion rights.
“While federal courts should generally be very cautious before delaying the effect of State laws, the sense of caution may be mitigated when the legislation seems designed, as here, as a protest against Supreme Court decisions,” the judge wrote in a court document cited by Reuters.
“The hostility to, and refusal to comply with, the Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence is most obviously demonstrated in the attempt to push ‘viability’ protection downward in various weekly stages to 8 weeks.”
The controversial legislation would also ban abortions in cases of rape or incest. It declares Missouri to be a “sanctuary of life” that protects “pregnant women and their unborn children”.
Attorneys for the state can appeal the judge’s ruling.
What does the Missouri bill say?
The bill, dubbed Missouri Stands With The Unborn, would outlaw performing an abortion in nearly all cases.
Under the bill, exemptions would be made for medical emergencies, but not pregnancies caused by rape or incest.
Doctors who perform abortions more than eight weeks into pregnancy would face five to 15 years in prison, the Associated Press reports.
A woman who has an abortion would not be held criminally liable.
Republican Governor Mike Parson said it would allow Missouri to become “one of the strongest pro-life states in the country”.
US abortion: Judge blocks Missouri law restricting abortion