JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Planned Parenthood will not be allowed to provide medication-induced abortions at the Springfield or Columbia clinics housed in Missouri, as per a Monday ruling from a federal judge.
U.S. District Judge Beth Phillips denied a request from Planned Parenthood Great Plains and Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri for a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the regulations. The lawsuit lists the state Department of Health and Senior Services, which licenses clinics, and county prosecutors who would enforce criminal penalties in the law, as the defendants.
Those regulations require those providing medication abortions to find doctors with admitting privileges at a local hospital who will be available at all times of the day to treat any complications or issues that may arise from the administering of the medication abortions.
Phillips ruled that Planned Parenthood had not shown that enough women would be denied access to abortions under the state rules imposed last year, though she wrote that the regulations have “virtually no benefit” and that the burden imposed was not enough to be considered unconstitutional.
“A state regulation that increases the distance a woman must travel or the expense of the procedure will not, alone, constitute an undue burden,” she wrote. “It is not enough for the regulation to make it more difficult for women to obtain an abortion; instead, it must be a substantial burden on their ability to obtain an abortion.”
Right now, medication abortions are only provided in Kansas City or St. Louis.
Attorney General Josh Hawley’s office praised the decision in a statement from press secretary Mary Compton.
“We are pleased that the district court denied Planned Parenthood’s motion for preliminary injunction.” Compton wrote in an email to the Columbia Daily Tribune. “The Attorney General’s Office will continue to vigorously defend commonsense regulations that protect the health of Missouri women.”
Following the decision, Brandon Hill, Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood Great Plains President and CEO and Mary M. Kogut, Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region President and CEO, released the following statement:
“It is extremely troubling that the Court would allow a regulation, that it found ‘has virtually no benefit,’ to deny women access to safe, legal abortion. Even though the Court found that complications from medication abortion are ’rare,’ and ‘strongly suspect[ed] that this requirement has been imposed specifically because DHSS is aware that it is difficult for abortion providers to comply with it, and simply constitutes a backdoor effort to require admitting privileges in an attempt to avoid (or ignore) Hellerstedt,’ the Court still has declined to stop this senseless regulation. Politicians and state regulators, ignoring medical evidence, continue to impose arbitrary restrictions that harm the women they purportedly serve. As was the case with the medically unnecessary and burdensome regulations that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, we are confident this unnecessary regulation will ultimately be overturned. We will continue to fight for justice and the right for all Missourians to access the comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care they choose.”
Read the judge’s decision below.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.