Planned Parenthood, ACLU sue state over latest abortion law

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Planned Parenthood affiliates and the American Civil Liberties Union are filing a lawsuit over the new abortion restrictions passed during an extraordinary session.

SB 5, passed by the Republican-led Missouri Legislature this past summer, would put a new set of requirements that women and doctors would have to overcome “so that women can exercise their right to have an abortion in the state of Missouri”, according to court documents filed Tuesday.

Those requirements include annual state health inspections, blocking local ordinances, tissue sample reports to the Legislature from the Department of Health and Senior Services, whistleblower-protection policies, as well as grant the attorney general new power to prosecute those who violate the laws.

Both organizations argue that the new laws, set to go into effect on Oct. 24, severely restrict access to safe abortions. The lawsuit, filed in the Jackson County Circuit Court, asks for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to block the law from going into effect.

In a statement released Tuesday, the organizations criticized one requirement in particular, which requires that a doctor give specific information about the abortions to a woman at least 72 hours before performing the procedure.
To accommodate that, the plaintiffs argue that women would have to make two trips to an abortion clinic to get the procedure. The distances for some could be rather significant, due to the small number of facilities allowed to operate in Missouri.

“This will result in extreme delays up to three to four weeks for women to access abortion, and it will cut some women off from care entirely. Women in areas like Springfield will be forced to make a 300- to 400-mile round trip twice to a health center that provides abortion, rather than making their initial visit at a local health center (as they could prior to this law),” a news release from Planned Parenthood reads. “Abortion is a time-sensitive procedure, and extreme delays like these will mean some people cannot access an abortion at all. These barriers are hardest on those who already face challenges to accessing care: young people, women of color, those who live in rural areas and people with low incomes. More than 70 percent of RHS patients have incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

“Let’s be clear: this law was written by politicians, not doctors, and is part of a broader effort to ban safe, legal abortion. Already, we talk to patients who have to delay their procedures to travel, take off time from work, and figure out child care,” Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region President and CEO Mary M. Kogut said. “Adding a delay of three or four more weeks will mean many of these women cannot access abortion at all. We are in court today to ensure that every person, no matter who they are or where they live, can make their own personal health care decisions without political interference.”

The lawsuit also argues that the new laws conflict with existing laws, violate Missourians’ due process rights, as well as deviate from the legislation’s original intended purpose.

The lawsuit just adds to a growing list of challenges to Missouri’s abortion laws, as last week, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals allowed Planned Parenthood to continue seeking the licensing to perform abortions in three cities. Planned Parenthood announced on Tuesday that they would start scheduling abortions at the Columbia clinic.

Another case is headed to the Missouri Supreme Court, in which a member of the Satanic Temple is challenging the 72-hour waiting requirement.

Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email benjamin@themissouritimes.com or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.