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Missouri might lose one of its last abortion clinics soon

Planned Parenthood says the ruling could “impact services within weeks”

by Carter Sherman
Sep 11 2018, 4:26pm

Missouri currently has just two abortion clinics. But within weeks, it could be down to one.

A federal appeals court ruled Monday to let Missouri enforce restrictions that require abortion clinics to meet ambulatory surgical-center standards, which could mean costly renovations, and mandate that clinic doctors must have privileges that let them perform surgeries at hospitals located within 15 minutes of the clinic.

Planned Parenthood, which operates both clinics, says the ruling could “impact services within weeks,” according to a news release from the organization Monday.

“Missouri women continue to bear the burden of misguided government leaders, who substitute their own opinion for medical evidence,” Mary Kogut, president and CEO of Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, said in a statement. “We will continue to challenge these restrictions and fight for our patients’ right to access the full range of sexual and reproductive healthcare, including safe, legal abortion.”

The case dates back to 2016, when the Supreme Court overturned several abortion restrictions in Texas. Since Missouri had similar provisions on the books, abortion providers informed the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services that its measures were “unconstitutional and unenforceable.”

In April 2017, a district court blocked the state from enforcing the restrictions with a preliminary injunction. But on Monday, a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed that decision.

The preliminary injunction on the Missouri law will remain in effect as Planned Parenthood decides whether it wants the entire panel of judges to review the decision. If the ruling takes effect, however, a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Columbia, Missouri, would have to cease offering the procedure, Planned Parenthood said in its news release. Instead, women seeking abortion will have to head to St. Louis — about 125 miles away.

Missouri already requires people who want abortions to visit the clinic twice, in person, first for counseling and then for the procedure. They must also wait 72 hours between visits.

In its reversal on Missouri’s abortion restrictions, the federal appeals court found the lower court erred by not considering more information about a provision that allows Missouri abortion clinics to apply for waivers that exempt them from the ambulatory surgical-center requirements — and by failing to consider whether any of the restrictions might benefit women’s health. “The Supreme Court recognized that ‘before the [Texas] act’s passage, abortion in Texas was extremely safe,’” the decision reads. “No such determination about abortion in Missouri was made here.”

A landmark study on abortion released earlier this year by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that legal abortions in the United States are overwhelmingly “safe and effective.”

Cover image: CHICAGO, IL - MAY 18: A sign hangs above a Planned Parenthood clinic on May 18, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The Trump administration is expected to announce a plan for massive funding cuts to Planned Parenthood and other taxpayer-backed abortion providers by reinstating a Reagan-era rule that prohibits federal funding from going to clinics that discuss abortion with women or that share space with abortion providers. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)