Just two weeks before new regulations on Missouri abortion providers would take effect, the state’s Planned Parenthood affiliates are challenging the provisions in state court.
The General Assembly approved several new rules by a wide margin in a lengthy special legislative session called by Governor Eric Greitens this summer. Greitens, a Republican, signed the law, which among other things requires the physician who will be performing an abortion to explain the risks to the patient no less than 72 hours before the procedure.
The lawsuit, filed jointly with the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, challenges that rule, claiming it is medically unnecessary and limits access to safe, legal reproductive services in violation of the Missouri constitution. The complaint filed in Jackson County court Tuesday also seeks a temporary restraining order to keep the law from taking effect as scheduled on October 24. Aaron Samulcek, interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, says the requirements are designed to discourage abortions.
“This law is political interference at its worst,” Samulcek said in a statement. “It will force women to wait weeks for an abortion, or take that decision away from her altogether."
Several other elements of the law are not part of the complaint filed today, including a requirement that clinics have plans in place for responding to medical complications and the granting of authority for enforcing abortion laws to the state attorney general.
The new case comes as Planned Parenthood is increasing the services it offers in Missouri. Earlier this year, a federal judge issued an injunction to block another Missouri abortion law passed in 2015, determining that Planned Parenthood was likely to prevail in a trial on the merits. That injunction, preventing the state from requiring clinic doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, was recently lifted, then reinstated, by the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
Until this summer, the St. Louis Planned Parenthood clinic was the only one offering abortions in the state. Since the Eighth Circuit decision to leave the injunction in place, the Kansas City clinic has begun offering drug-induced, but not surgical, abortions. Planned Parenthood has said it plans to begin offering surgical abortions in Columbia, Springfield and Joplin.
The complaint was filed jointly by Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which covers the Kansas City region, as well as Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, which includes most of the rest of Missouri. The named defendants include state Attorney General Joshua D. Hawley, in his official capacity, who earlier Tuesday announced his candidacy for the United States Senate in next year’s elections. On Tuesday afternoon, his office said it had just received copies of the lawsuit and was reviewing them.
“SB5 enacts sensible regulations that protect the health of women in Missouri and it is our duty and privilege to vigorously defend them,” said Loree Ann Paradise, Hawley’s deputy chief of staff.
Other defendants include county prosecutors and the appointed members of the Missouri Board of Registration for the Healing Arts, which oversees enforcement of the state’s medical regulations.
Dan Margolies is KCUR’s health editor. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.