A federal judge in Missouri put a block on a strict and controversial abortion ban Tuesday, a day before the state was set to criminalize abortions after eight weeks, to allow pending legal challenges against it to proceed.

“The various sections specifying prohibitions on abortions at various weeks prior to viability cannot be allowed to go into effect on August 28, as scheduled,” U.S. District Court Judge Howard Sachs wrote in an 11-page opinion.

“However formulated, the legislation on its face conflicts with the Supreme Court ruling that neither legislative or judicial limits on abortion can be measured by specified weeks or development of a fetus; instead, ‘viability’ is the sole test for a State’s authority to prohibit abortions where there is no maternal health issue,” Sachs wrote.

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Sachs noted he based his decision to block the law on several factors: the “threat of irreparable harm” to potential patients, harm to the state by not allowing the law to go into effect and public opinion. Sachs wrote that public opinion “overwhelmingly favors" Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, which sued the state, saying the law was unconstitutional and contrary to the Roe v. Wade decision.

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Missouri has become a flash point alongside other conservative states that seek to challenge the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, a ruling that established a woman’s right nationwide to an abortion. Those states’ efforts triggered a wave of lawsuits from abortion rights advocacy groups, including Planned Parenthood and the ACLU.

The Missouri law signed in May would ban abortions before many women know they are pregnant, with no exceptions for rape or incest, making it one of the strictest in the country. If the court doesn’t uphold the ban, the bill also includes less-strict bans ranging from 14 weeks to 20 weeks.

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“We are in the fight of our lives to protect abortion for 1.1 million Missouri women of reproductive age in our state,” Colleen McNicholas, chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, said last month. “The attacks are relentless, but our commitment to our patients’ rights and freedoms is unwavering.”

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While conservatives championed the ban, with Missouri House Speaker Elijah Haahr (R) saying the bill “stood for the unborn,” opponents said it would only drive women to get unsafe procedures out of state or seek unsafe operations on their own.

“We will be killing women with this bill,” Rep. Sarah Unsicker, a Democrat from the St. Louis suburbs, said before the vote.

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Gov. Mike Parson (R) made a forceful statement with the bill passage, vowing to make Missouri “one of the strongest pro-life states in the country.”

Lindsey Bever contributed to this report.

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