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Missouri Passes Abortion Ban. What Will the 8th Circuit Say?

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Missouri passed a ban on abortions after the eighth week of pregnancy, setting up another conflict in the ongoing legal battles over abortion. It's a foregone conclusion that the governor will sign the bill, and no doubt it will be challenged in the courts. If so, it will go to the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Abortion advocates are not optimistic.

When the lawyers get there, they will face inherent controversy and meet a new judge or two at the same time. President Trump has appointed four of the eleven judges serving on the Eighth Circuit.

There Will Be Lawsuits

Gov. Mike Parson has until mid-July to sign the eight-week bill, but is expected to sign it in about one week. A lawsuit will surely follow. The National Women's Law Center, however, is not looking forward to the abortion battles in the Eighth Circuit. The organization was worried about the future of abortion access in light of a decision last year and the then-pending nomination of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Those concerns are largely well founded.

In Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood Great Plains v. Hawley, the Eighth Circuit let stand a Missouri law that requires abortion providers have surgery privileges at a hospital within 15 minutes of their practice. The case has returned to the lower court to determine whether the law creates an undue burden on abortion access. The Eighth Circuit heard arguments earlier this year on an Arkansas law against second-trimester dilation-and-evacuation abortions. Similar laws have been enacted in eight other states, where they have been litigated, defeated, or gone unchallenged. Of course, every case is different.

There Have Been Changes

Meanwhile, there have been changes at the Eighth Circuit. President Trump appointed four new judges: two sailed through their nominations; one made it on party lines; and another became the first federal judicial nominee to be confirmed by a tie-breaking vote. Vice-president Mike Pence cast the deciding vote, sending Judge Jonathan Kobes to the appeals court bench. Trump, who has been reshaping the federal bench faster than his immediate predecessors, complained that the Democrats were stalling his nominations.

However, it doesn't make much difference in the Eighth Circuit. Only one of the judges on the appeals court was nominated by a Democrat.

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