The Missouri Senate passed legislation Thursday that contains some of the nation’s strongest safeguards for unborn babies and their mothers, including a ban on abortions from eight weeks of pregnancy and a declaration that Missouri is to be a “sanctuary of life.”

“In recognition that God is the author of life,” begins the Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act (HB 126) that state House Speaker Elijah Haahr (R) labeled the “strongest pro-life bill in the country.”

“[I]t is the intention of the general assembly of the state of Missouri” to “defend the right to life of all humans, born and unborn” and to “declare that the state and all of its political subdivisions are a ‘sanctuary of life’ that protects pregnant women and their unborn children,” the legislation states.

“This comprehensive, life-affirming legislation prohibits abortions once a heartbeat has been detected, prohibits abortions when a baby is capable of feeling pain, and would outlaw abortion in Missouri upon the reversal of Roe v. Wade,” summarized state Sens. Dave Schatz and Caleb Rowden in a joint statement.

The bill’s approval by the Republican-led state Senate, with a vote of 24-10, came just hours after Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) signed into law a bill that bans most abortions at any time during pregnancy, except those necessary in order to prevent “a serious health risk to the unborn child’s mother.”

The Missouri legislation now heads to the Republican-led House for approval, before it can go to the desk of Gov. Mike Parson, also a Republican, who expressed support for it on Wednesday.

“Thanks to the leaders in the House and Senate, we have the opportunity to be one of the strongest pro-life states in the country,” Parson said.

The measure protects unborn babies from abortion beginning at eight weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions for medical emergencies, but not for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.

Doctors who perform abortions after the eight-week period could face five to 15 years of jail time. Women who receive abortions after the eighth week of pregnancy would not be prosecuted.

Additionally, if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned, Missouri’s measure includes a complete ban on abortions except in cases of medical emergencies.

The Missouri legislation also contains contingency plans if the courts block the proposed eight-week ban, including a range of bans from 14-20 weeks of pregnancy, and a ban on all abortions due to race, sex or a diagnosis of Down syndrome.

“Momentum is clearly on the side of life and it is only a matter of time until our nation’s laws protect this foundational human right for all children, born and unborn,” said Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) president Marjorie Dannenfelser as she reacted to the state Senate’s approval of the Missouri bill.

Polling released earlier this year by SBA List found that 82 percent of Missouri voters – including 66 percent of Democrats, 83 percent of independents, 83 percent of women, and 61 percent of those who identify as pro-choice voters – support a law prohibiting late-term abortions.

“The time for negotiations is over,” said Missouri Sen. Bob Onder (R) prior to the vote, adding:

Every provision of the Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act … is a provision that would protect innocent human life, protect pregnancy care centers and ensure that they get the resources they need to perform their valuable mission, and measures to protect the health and safety of Missouri women.

State Sen. Andrew Koenig (R) told NPR’s Here & Now that “there’s a low risk” of the possibility of Missouri women seeking less-safe forms of abortion as a result of the legislation.

“The abortion rate is plummeting, even in places where there is access to abortion, and the Constitution says that every person has a right to life and it should be protected,” he said.

Some Missouri Senate Democrats described the language of the bill as “extreme,” reported NPR.

“This language four years ago would be unthinkable,” said Democrat state Sen. Lauren Arthur. “But elections have consequences. And with new Supreme Court justices, there is a renewed attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade. And with that, there is a push in this Legislature to pass what I would characterize as very extreme legislation.”

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