Government & Politics

Planned Parenthood files federal lawsuit challenging Missouri abortion laws

Abortion opponents and abortion rights advocates demonstrated last year outside Planned Parenthood’s clinic in Columbia.
Abortion opponents and abortion rights advocates demonstrated last year outside Planned Parenthood’s clinic in Columbia. Columbia Daily Tribune

Planned Parenthood affiliates in Missouri have filed a federal lawsuit challenging two state laws they say are unconstitutional.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday morning in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, challenges requirements that abortion clinics meet standards for surgical centers and that their doctors have privileges in a nearby hospital.

The requirements are “medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion,” the lawsuit says, pointing to the fact that similar laws in Texas were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in July.

“The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that these politically and ideologically motivated restrictions serve no medical purpose and lead to potentially dangerous and harmful consequences for patients seeking abortion,” Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, and Mary Kogut, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said in a joint statement released Wednesday morning.

Currently, the only facility performing elective abortions in Missouri is a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis.

Columbia’s Planned Parenthood clinic stopped offering abortion services last year after the University of Missouri-Columbia revoked hospital privileges to the clinic’s doctor. The move came following political pressure from Republican state lawmakers who questioned whether the publicly funded university should be associating with an abortion provider.

Planned Parenthood has made it clear that if the hospital admitting privileges requirement is struck down, it will resume abortion services in Columbia. Last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling has given them hope.

“Neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in last July’s majority opinion. “Each places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking (an) abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access, and each violates the federal Constitution.”

But as abortion-rights advocates push to undo Missouri’s stringent regulations on abortion, Republican lawmakers are already planning ways to expand them. Legislation that’s likely on the 2017 agenda includes mandating annual health inspections for abortion clinics and requiring providers to track fetal tissue from abortions.

Sen.-elect Andrew Koenig, a Republican from St. Louis County, said the goal is to make abortion completely unavailable in Missouri.

“I don’t like abortion. I want it out of the state,” Koenig told The Associated Press. “One avenue is regulation.”