The Missouri legislature finally passed abortion legislation called for by Governor Eric Greitens this week after the senate delayed activity for close to a month. The upper chamber had put its work on hold until most of its members could be present for a second time in an unusual second special session during the interim period for lawmakers.
Governor Greitens called for updates to the state’s abortion regulations after a federal judge tossed out two key provisions. One of them compelled abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, while the other required clinics to meet hospital type standards for outpatient surgery.
After the court decision, both Planned Parenthood affiliates covering Missouri announced plans to open a total of four abortion clinics.
Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri said it would start offering the procedure for the first time at existing clinics in Springfield and Joplin. Planned Parenthood Great Plains revealed it would reestablish the practice at clinics in Kansas City and Columbia.
After the Senate finalized the new legislation Tuesday, lawmakers were unclear on how it would impact Planned Parenthood’s intentions.
Republican Andrew Koenig of Manchester, who sponsored the bill, was unsure if it would block the clinics from opening. “I mean, we’ll see” said Koenig. “But the bill is focused on protecting the health and safety of women across this state, and is common sense regulations.”
Republican Bob Onder of Lake St. Louis, who assisted Koenig in crafting the legislation, said the proposed clinics will face a new set of regulations. “If those clinics can meet the standards set forth in this law, and the common sense regulations that will be promulgated by Dr. (Randall) Williams and the Missouri Department of Health, then they’ll be able to open” Onder said.
The facilities will mainly be subject to the legislation’s newly crafted definition of abortion clinics, which includes separate regulations from other medical centers.
Bonyen Lee-Gilmore with Planned Parenthood Great Plains says plans to expand abortion licenses to additional clinics depends on how the state Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) implements the new policies.
“We know the big picture change” said Lee-Gilmore. “We understand that they want to change this category. They want to make a new licensing scheme for abortion providers. But what’s in that, we’re not quite sure yet. That’s what we’re waiting on DHSS to clarify.”
Planned Parenthood Great Plains has filed for licenses at its health centers in Kansas City and Columbus under current licensing law. The new regulations go into effect 90 days from when they were signed into law, which was Wednesday.
Democratic Senator Jill Schupp of Creve Coeur thinks the Republican backed legislation is clearly block more abortion clinics from opening up.
“Certainly these bills have been designed to get in the way of that” said Schupp. “I don’t know what the outcome will be. I don’t know until we experience how difficult it may be to meet these new regulations.”
Currently, the only abortion provider operating in Missouri is the Planned Parenthood center in St. Louis.
The new legislation may be a response to a court order, but that bench hasn’t yet made a decision in the litigation itself.
Both Planned Parenthood affiliates in Missouri sued the state over its requirements for doctor admitting privileges and hospital type standards after the U.S. Supreme Court threw out similar regulations in Texas in June 2016.
Planned Parenthood won a preliminary injunction to block the state from enforcing its requirement from Judge Howard Sachs at the U.S. District Court for Western Missouri in Kansas City.
The state then asked the 8th Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals to put a stay on the preliminary injunction. That bench denied the state’s request.
Judge Sachs will still issue a final decision in the lawsuit brought by the Planned Parenthood affiliates at some point in the future.
Planned Parenthood Great Plains operates in three states in addition to Missouri – Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. It has clinics in all three of those states that offer abortions, while none in Missouri do. All three of the other states also have at least two abortion providers while only Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region offers the procedure in Missouri