The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to hear its first major abortion case in nearly a decade, and it could affect Missouri’s laws regulating abortions.
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the challenge of a Texas law that requires facilities that provide abortions to meet the standards for ambulatory surgical centers, and requires doctors that perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Both are requirements of Missouri law as well.
Lobbyist Samuel Lee, president of the pro-life group Campaign Life Missouri, said the Court’s decision in that case could affect more than those two provisions here.
“The court is not only going to be looking at whether the specific Texas statutes are constitutional or not, but also what states can do in the future and what criteria they can use in deciding whether a regulation of abortion is constitutional or not,” Lee told Missourinet. “As we go into the 2016 session I know lawmakers are very interested in further regulation of abortion in light of the allegations of the buying and selling of body parts from aborted babies, and from the hearings that have been held in the Missouri legislature.”
Lee said he welcomes the court taking up the case.
“To once again revisit the standard of what is and what is not constitutional when it comes to abortion regulation,” said Lee. “There’s confusion in the courts and we think it needs to be settled.”
Abortion rights supporters often call those provisions and other such restrictions attempts to limit access to abortions that lack medical basis, but Lee and other supporters of those provisions say they are aimed at protecting the health of mothers.
“There are some risks involved in having an abortion whether you’re talking about a surgical abortion or a so-called medical abortion; that is, a drug-induced abortion,” said Lee. “There are risks and occasionally a need for hospitalization or follow-up care. We think these are legitimate health concerns, but the state also has concern about the life of the unborn child.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has said that’s a legitimate interest of the state,” said Lee. “How far a state can go in terms of regulating abortion – that’s the big question, and that’s what, hopefully, the Supreme Court will decide by June or July of next year.”
Missouri’s provisions mirroring that Texas law have been at the forefront of controversy over the resumption of abortions at the Columbia Planned Parenthood facility earlier this year. After a state Senate committee brought to light that the University of Missouri Health System had provided a St. Louis doctor with privileges that only allowed her to refer a patient to its Columbia hospital and check on that patient’s wellbeing and lawmakers questioned whether such privileges met the requirement of Missouri law, the University system discontinued such “refer and follow” privileges. Without those privileges, the Columbia facility is scheduled to have to discontinue abortions again, December 1. Planned Parenthood has criticized that committee and its chairman, and the University for what it said amounted to caving to political pressure.
The same committee has questioned whether the Columbia facility meets the standards of an ambulatory surgical center.
Missourinet reached out to Planned Parenthood of Kansas & Mid-Missouri for an interview on the case but an interview was not granted by Tuesday afternoon.
The court will likely hear arguments around February.