Judge allows Missouri medical abortion rules to stand

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A federal judge has denied a Planned Parenthood request to block new Missouri regulations on abortion that have so far prevented the organization from offering medication-induced abortions at two of its clinics.

U.S. District Judge Beth Phillips wrote in a ruling Monday that the regulations “have virtually no benefit” but do not impose enough of a burden on women to be considered unconstitutional, The Columbia Tribune reported .

The regulations require providers to obtain written contracts with two doctors who have local hospital admitting privileges who will agree to be on call at all times to treat complications from medication abortion. Planned Parenthood Great Plains and Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri have argued the regulations have kept it from getting approval from the state health department to provide medication abortions in Columbia and Springfield. The ruling doesn’t end the case but showed Phillips doubts Planned Parenthood will succeed if it goes to trial.

Currently, medication abortions are available in Missouri only in Kansas City and St. Louis. Phillips wrote that evidence in the case showed the “vast majority” of women who cannot travel to Kansas City or St. Louis will obtain a surgical abortion.

Planned Parenthood has argued that most women prefer medication abortions.

“The court does not doubt this fact; however, for purposes of the constitution, women are not necessarily entitled access to the procedure that they prefer,” Phillips wrote.

Planned Parenthood sued the state Department of Health and Senior Services after lawmakers enacted new restrictions on abortion in a 2017 special session.

“We are pleased that the district court denied Planned Parenthood’s motion for preliminary injunction.” Attorney General Josh Hawley’s spokeswoman, Mary Compton, wrote in an email. “The Attorney General’s Office will continue to vigorously defend commonsense regulations that protect the health of Missouri women.”

Brandon Hill, president and CEO of Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood, and Mary M. Kogut, president and CEO of Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region said in a joint statement Tuesday that it was troubling the judge declined to stop “this senseless regulation” would allow it to continue even after saying they had virtually no benefit and finding that complications from medication abortions are rare.

“We will continue to fight for justice and the right for all Missourians to access the comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care they choose,” they said.

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