Planned Parenthood Great Plains plans to move quickly to offer abortion services in Kansas City and Columbia, Missouri, now that a judge has blocked two Missouri abortion restrictions that had prevented it from doing so.
U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs on Tuesday granted a preliminary injunction barring the state from enforcing laws requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at hospitals and abortion clinics to meet the physical specifications of surgery centers.
Sachs had ruled earlier that he intended to grant the injunction but asked both sides to formulate an order that would not block other Missouri requirements concerning safety and health.
Planned Parenthood had also asked him to order the state to complete the abortion licensing process in 45 days. In his one-page order, Sachs, while refusing to impose a fixed deadline, stated that he “expects current and future licensing applications to be processed promptly, in light of patient needs, and without effective influence from opponents of abortion.”
Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which operates health centers in Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and Oklahoma, has all but completed the application process for its Kansas City and Columbia clinics. But the state refused to license them because of the restrictions that Sachs has now blocked.
Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, says the organization’s goal is to be inspected and licensed as quickly as possible.
“We will reach out to the state, to the Department of Health and Senior Services, early next week to let them know that we're ready to return to complete the follow-up inspections,” McQuade says. “And that will start the clock ticking. So once we reach out to them, hopefully they will very quickly schedule inspections for both the midtown health center as well as Columbia and that then we will quickly move through the process to obtaining a license.”
McQuade says the Kansas City clinic will offer only medical abortions, since its nearby clinic in Overland Park, Kansas, offers surgical abortions. She says the Columbia clinic will offer both medical and surgical abortions.
“The overwhelming majority of our abortion services at Planned Parenthood Great Plains are both first trimester but also medication, so expanding access to that, we'll be able to serve more patients,” she says.
Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri also plans to start offering abortion services at its clinics in Joplin and Springfield once they are licensed. Right now, Planned Parenthood’s clinic in St. Louis is the state's only abortion provider. .
Jesse Lawder, a spokesman for Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, says it is preparing to apply for licenses for those clinics.
“Our intention is to start with medication (abortions),” Lawder says.
“We have to get through this application process, and my understanding is there has to be some sort of state inspection process as a part of that,” he says.
“But we’re not in complete control of the timeline. Obviously, in our court filings we asked the state and the judge to expedite this process, but we don’t have a date certain yet on when that might be wrapped up.”
Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley issued a statement saying he was "disappointed the court has struck down important safety measures that protect the health and well-being of those women who choose to undergo an abortion. I will appeal the court’s decision and order.”
Dan Margolies is KCUR’s health editor. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.