Government & Politics

Judge plans to block Missouri abortion law

Judge Howard Sachs of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri blocked a Missouri law that requires that abortion providers have hospital admitting privileges and meet the same regulations as outpatient surgical centers.
Judge Howard Sachs of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri blocked a Missouri law that requires that abortion providers have hospital admitting privileges and meet the same regulations as outpatient surgical centers. File photo

A federal judge plans to issue an injunction against a Missouri law requiring hospital admitting privileges for abortion providers while a suit against the law is litigated.

A memo sent to the parties involved Tuesday by Judge Howard Sachs of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri said he’s also decided to block a law requiring that abortion providers meet the same regulations as outpatient surgical centers.

“The (U.S.) Supreme Court invalidated both these aspects of regulation in Texas litigation last June,” Sachs wrote. “Missouri has not complied with that decision.”

Planned Parenthood Great Plains and Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri requested the injunction in December. The two groups were part of an effort to get abortion restrictions reversed in three states following the high court’s decision on the Texas case last summer.

The groups had said clinics in Columbia, Joplin and Springfield could begin offering first-trimester and medication-induced abortions if the injunction was granted. Sachs’ memo did not block the Missouri law yet, but told the parties involved that an injunction is coming.

Bonyen-Lee Gilmore, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said it was an unusual move, but the organization believes the formal injunction could come as soon as next week.

The presidents of the two Missouri Planned Parenthood organizations, Laura McQuade and Mary Kogut, released a statement Wednesday saying they were “strongly encouraged” by the memo.

“Judge Sachs was clear in his memo that these laws are unconstitutional and only seek to block access to safe, legal abortion,” the statement said.

Patricia Skain, the president of Missouri Right to Life, was not immediately available to comment.

The injunction memo comes amid a week of debate in the Missouri legislature about two abortion-related bills: one restricting the donation of fetal tissue after an abortion and another wiping out local laws governing crisis pregnancy centers that promote alternatives to abortion.

Sachs’ injunction memo potentially sets up a showdown with Missouri lawmakers who are against abortion. Responding to concerns that invalidating the outpatient surgical portion of the bill might also invalidate other abortion requirements that fall outside the Texas ruling, Sachs said he was open to delaying the effective date of such a ruling for 60 to 90 days to give Missouri lawmakers time to carve out those requirements.

As an alternative, he also said he would give the state’s lawyers and Planned Parenthood’s lawyers 10 days after the formal injunction to reach an agreement to carve them out.

Andy Marso: 816-234-4055, @andymarso

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