12:28, April 20 408 0 abajournal.com

2017-04-20 12:28:04
Federal judge blocks Missouri laws restricting abortion

A federal judge in Missouri has blocked state rules restricting abortions, saying the specific requirements were the same ones the U.S. Supreme Court barred last year, the KCUR and the Associated Press reported.

The order (PDF) by U.S. District Judge Howard F. Sachs granted the injunction sought by Planned Parenthood in a lawsuit filed last November, saying he must follow the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2016 ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt and that “the abortion rights of Missouri women, guaranteed by constitutional rulings, are being denied on a daily basis, in irreparable fashion.”

The state had required that abortion providers have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and that their facilities meet standards of ambulatory surgical centers, which Texas had done and the Supreme Court rejected last summer. The result, wrote Judge Sachs, is that the “ability to function as abortion clinics and to perform abortions is crippled in Columbia, Springfield and Joplin, and to some extent in Kansas City…,” leaving only one center in the state, in St. Louis, performing abortions.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley told the Associated Press that he will appeal, saying in an email: “Missouri has an obligation to do everything possible to ensure the health and safety of women undergoing medical procedures in state licensed medical facilities.”

Judge Sachs had questioned that motive in his written opinion: “As noted in my ruling denying dismissal of this case, ‘targeted regulation’ is not an unknown concept in Missouri. An incoming State Senator was recently quoted as advocating regulation as ‘one avenue’ to wholly eliminate abortions in Missouri.”

The state is concerned that the injunction might block other pertinent parts of the statute that do not fall under the Supreme Court ruling in the Texas case, Law360 (sub. req.) reported earlier.

Planned Parenthood officials in Missouri said in a joint statement that the ruling means more access soon.

“Together, we are excited to end Missouri’s shameful one-provider status, and soon be offering four more locations where women can access safe, legal abortion without facing geographical obstacles,” said Planned Parenthood Great Plains President and CEO, Laura McQuade, and her counterpart in the St. Louis region, Mary Kogut.