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story.lead_photo.caption Diane Vaughan, of Thrive St. Louis Express Women's Health Care, speaks Friday during a pro-life rally in the Capitol Rotunda. Photo by Sally Ince / News Tribune.

Abortion opponents gathered Friday afternoon at the Missouri Capitol to celebrate recent wins in efforts to ban abortions.

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About 40 pro-life supporters gathered for the MOBirthday Celebration Rally.

The rally, said Bonnie Lee, of Team P.L.A.Y. (Prayer, Legislation, Activity and You), was a celebration of a step toward Missouri becoming the first abortion-free state.

The Missouri Legislature in early May passed House Bill 126, and about a week later, Gov. Mike Parson signed into law the Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act.

"We are going to celebrate more Missouri birthdays," Lee said.

The new law prohibits abortions after the eighth week of pregnancy, with the only exception being for medical emergencies.

Doctors are required to prove the abortion was done because of a medical emergency, or they would face up to 15 years in prison. Women undergoing abortions could not be prosecuted.

The law was written with the expectation that it would face court challenges. It has provisions that would change the eight-week prohibition to 14-, 18- and 20-week prohibitions, depending on court rulings.

And, if any of a number of states' efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade — the 1973 case that led to the U.S. Supreme Court creating protections for women seeking abortions — are successful, a comprehensive ban would automatically kick in.

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With the passage, Missouri became the eighth state this year to pass strict abortion bans, joining Ohio, Utah, Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.

Keynote speaker Stacy Washington, host of the nationally syndicated "Stacy on the Right Show" and an Air Force veteran, began her oration by reading a statement from Parson to listeners.

Parson apologized for not being able to attend the event in person. He thanked those who attended the event. Among those listening was Rep. Rudy Veit, R-Jefferson City.

In the statement, Parson said he was reaffirming his commitment to "stand for life, protect women's health and advocate for the unborn."

He said as states like New York and Virginia move farther away from "the American ideal to protect and uphold life," he was pleased to lead a state that has so many people willing to stand up for those who have no voice.

He said he is committed to advocating for a culture of life in Missouri.

"Thanks to the leaders of Missouri's House and Senate, Missouri is now one of the strongest pro-life states in the country," Parson said in the statement. "I firmly believe that all life has value and is worth protecting."

Washington said it is a comfort to know that when criticism comes, Parson was brave and strong enough to withstand it and do something as courageous as sign the bill.

"As an American, I know that abortion hurts every one of us. Sixty-four million Americans have been aborted since the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973," Washington said.

As a churchgoer, Washington said, she knows "post-abortive" women like herself, sit in pews suffering through their shame. As a wife, she knows abortion hurts men who may not be permitted an opinion on something that affects them. As a mother, she has seen the product of conception, so she knows abortion is wrong.

"As a voter, I know that both political parties have been complicit in keeping abortion legal in America," Washington said. "No more."

Reagan Barklage, with Students for Life America, said HB 126 is poised to abolish abortion in Missouri when Roe v. Wade is overturned. She thanked lawmakers who worked "tirelessly and courageously" to pass the bill. And she thanked the listeners who urged their lawmakers to do so. She praised them as "warriors for life."

Speaking to the listeners, Jacinto Florence, another Students for Life America member, said Missouri has passed the most pro-life bill in the country.

She said, "We are the pro-life generation" is the students' tagline.

"I'm here to tell you today that not only are we the pro-life generation, we are the post-Roe generation," Florence said. "We are going to abolish abortion. And Roe is going to be overturned. We will not stop fighting until every single state in our nation is abortion free."

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