The lawsuit was filed by Reproductive Health Services, which operates Missouri's lone abortion clinic in St. Louis.

MISSOURI - A federal appeals court panel has blocked Missouri from enforcing a sweeping state abortion law that bans the procedures at or after eight weeks of pregnancy.

A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis handed down the ruling Wednesday.

The panel heard arguments in September in the legal battle over the 2019 law, which also would prohibit a woman from having an abortion because the fetus has Down syndrome.

The lawsuit was filed by Reproductive Health Services, which operates Missouri's lone abortion clinic in St. Louis, and the ACLU.

Missouri's Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt says he plans to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Yamelsie Rodríguez, President and CEO of Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region said this was a "critical victory."

"Especially at a time when Gov. Parson and anti-abortion politicians have continued their relentless attacks on reproductive health care more and more, our rights are often coming down to that one court decision at a time," Rodríguez said.

Rodríguez said she acknowledges the fight is far from over, especially now with a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade in front of the Supreme Court.

"I think what that decision shows and our commitment to abortion access is that Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood, it's not going to back down," Rodríguez said. "We're going to continue fighting for the people in the communities that rely on us for essential health care, including abortion and birth control."

While the Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood sees this as a victory, they are taking it one step at a time.

"While we celebrate that the decision was blocked and people can continue to access health care and abortion in history, we know that this is far from the floor," Rodríguez said.  "We need to continue to advocate for politicians to get out of people's out of our patients exam rooms, and really to focus on advancing policies that are going to make all of Missourians healthy, and strong."

Republican State Rep. Hardy Billington told KOMU 8 in an email he is extremely disappointed that the appeals court overturned this law that he "proudly" co-sponsored. 

"My mother had an abortion before I was born, so I know first-hand that abortion not only destroys a precious child, it affects the woman a great deal for the rest of her life," Billington said.

Rep. Billington said he believes they should appeal to the Supreme Court and that they have a good opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade.

"This December I plan to pre-file my bill that requires the performance and explanation of an obstetric ultrasound and auscultation of the fetal heartbeat prior to an abortion," Billington said. 

The proposed effective date for Billington's bill, House Bill 67, is Aug. 28, 2021. The next hearing is not scheduled yet. 

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