Federal Court Blocks Missouri GOP’s Abortion Restrictions

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Federal Court Blocks Missouri GOP’s Abortion Restrictions

Nicole Knight

Missouri for nearly two years had a single abortion clinic in St. Louis to serve 1.2 million women of reproductive age.

Abortion care will be more accessible in Missouri thanks to a recent legal win in an ongoing case brought by Planned Parenthood.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit on Monday denied a motion by the state of Missouri that sought to continue enforcing a medically unnecessary law requiring doctors to maintain hospital admitting privileges and abortion clinics to be outfitted like mini-hospitals. The U.S. Supreme Court in the precedent-setting case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt decided similar restrictions in Texas were unconstitutional. But Missouri wanted the requirements to remain while a suit by Planned Parenthood worked its way through the courts.

“Today’s win is a victory for Missouri women who rely on Planned Parenthood for quality, compassionate care, including abortion,” Mary M. Kogut, president and CEO of Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, said in a statement.

Planned Parenthood said it now intends to expand access to abortion care in Missouri in health centers in Springfield, Joplin, and Columbia. The expansion would lift the number of abortion clinics in the state from two to five.

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For nearly two years, the state had a single abortion clinic in St. Louis to serve 1.2 million women of reproductive age. Last month, a Kansas City Planned Parenthood began offering medication abortion. But the cities are at opposite ends of the state, about 250 miles apart, and pregnant people must make multiple trips for abortion services. Missouri requires two mandatory visits and an onerous 72-hour delay before a person can undergo the medical procedure.

Planned Parenthood last year sued in federal court to block Missouri’s GOP-led unconstitutional abortion requirements. In April, U.S. District Judge Howard F. Sachs issued a preliminary injunction, putting the law on hold, which the state has fought in court. But, a temporary stay allowed Missouri to delay giving abortion licenses for the Planned Parenthood clinics in Columbia, Joplin, and Springfield. Monday’s ruling lifts that stay.

In that decision, Sachs wrote the admitting privilege requirement has “crippled” abortion access, and echoed the Supreme Court in finding the restriction without a medical basis: “At oral argument in the Supreme Court, Texas counsel acknowledged that he could not cite ‘a single instance in which the new [admitting privilege] requirement would have helped even one woman obtain better treatment.’”

As for the surgery center requirement, Sachs noted it has closed Missouri clinics or prevented them from expanding services.