A federal appeals court Monday ruled that Missouri can enforce laws that pro-choice groups say will sharply reduce access to abortions.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a 2017 decision that blocked enforcement of the laws. The regulations require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and abortion clinics to be licensed as outpatient surgical centers.
In November 2016, Planned Parenthood’s two operators in Missouri filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the two restrictions. The litigation came after the U.S. Supreme Court determined earlier that year that Texas restrictions almost identical to Missouri’s were unconstitutional.
Monday’s decision, which comes from a three-judge panel, won’t take effect while Planned Parenthood considers whether to seek review of the case by the full 8th Circuit Court.
After the 2017 decision by a federal district court, Planned Parenthood announced intentions to expand its abortion services in Missouri. At the time, the procedure was only available at its St. Louis facility. Plans included offering either surgical or medication abortions in Kansas City, Columbia, Springfield, and Joplin.
Only two Planned Parenthood health centers, in St. Louis and Columbia, currently offer the services. The Kansas City operation lost its abortion facility license in August. The clinic said it sought timely renewal of its license, but the state Department of Health and Senior Services delayed the license after saying the agency was unable to conduct a complete inspection of the facility in June.
The clinic did not have an abortion doctor at the time and had stopped offering the procedure in late March when the provider left. The Kansas City center has since arranged for a new provider and continues to push for its license.
A planned expansion of services to Springfield and Joplin had initially been delayed by Missouri passing further restrictions in 2017 and could be further delayed by Monday’s ruling.
In a statement released Monday, Planned Parenthood said the latest court decision could impact services within weeks, forcing the organization to suspend abortion services in Columbia and limiting access to a single Missouri provider in St. Louis. Planned Parenthood also said efforts to restart services in Kansas City could be threatened.
Planned Parenthood of St. Louis and Southwest Missouri operates the facilities in Springfield and Joplin. Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood Great Plains in Kansas City runs the clinic there, along the one in Columbia.
The heads of both operations issued statements critical of Monday’s the 8th Circuit’s decision.
These requirements do nothing to help Missouri women — and, in fact, actually hurt them,” said Dr. Brandon J. Hill, President, and CEO of Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood Great Plains. “If these laws are allowed to take effect, women will now have to travel farther, wait longer, and use more of their own resources to access the health care they need most — if they can get care at all.”
“Missouri women continue to bear the burden of misguided government leaders, who substitute their own opinion for medical evidence,” said Mary Kogut, President, and CEO of Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region. “The Eighth Circuit’s ruling undermines decades of case law, including crystal clear Supreme Court precedent. We will continue to challenge these restrictions and fight for our patients’ right to access the full range of sexual and reproductive health care, including safe, legal abortion.”
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