A federal judge was expected to decide on Tuesday whether to block a Missouri law banning abortion after eight weeks except in cases of medical emergency, according to court documents.
Women's healthcare provider Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union sued Missouri last month over the law, which also bans abortions sought on the grounds of the fetus' race, sex or disability and makes it a felony for doctors to perform abortions in violation of the law.
Planned Parenthood's Missouri clinic and the ACLU have argued the law, due to take effect on Wednesday, will cause "significant and irreparable constitutional, medical, emotional" harm to patients in that state, who may not even know they are pregnant at eight weeks, according to court documents.
The law declares Missouri to be a "sanctuary of life" that protects "pregnant women and their unborn children." It does not make exceptions for cases of rape and incest and it includes a provision that would trigger a statewide abortion ban if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its landmark 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, which established a woman's constitutional right to terminate her pregnancy.
Abortion is one of the most divisive political issues in the United States. Several conservative states have passed restrictive laws on abortion this year in hopes that their legal opposition may lead to a Supreme Court review of the constitutional issue.