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Planned Parenthood Loses Second Challenge To New Abortion Law

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A federal judge in Kansas City on Friday denied Planned Parenthood’s request to block a Missouri regulation requiring its clinic in Columbia to have a so-called complication plan for medication abortions.

The Legislature enacted the requirement this summer after Gov. Eric Greitens called it into special session. Later the Department of Health and Senior Services issued a rule that an OB-GYN had to be on call 24/7 to treat complications from a medication abortion.

A medication abortion is a procedure involving a combination of two pills. The woman takes the first at an abortion clinic and typically takes the second at home.

Planned Parenthood’s clinic in Kansas City received approval for its complication plan. But its clinic in Columbia was unable to find an OB-GYN with hospital admitting privileges, which the law appears to require.

Planned Parenthood sued to block the regulation, arguing it imposes an “undue burden” on women seeking an abortion.

U.S. District Judge Beth Phillips denied its request. Although she said she had “serious doubts” the rule produces any benefits to women or the state, she also said Planned Parenthood had not demonstrated it can’t comply with the regulation. And she said it failed to present evidence of how many women would be affected by the rule.

Aaron Samulcek, interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, the affiliate that operates the Kansas City and Columbia clinics, reacted to the ruling in a statement: "Missouri politicians continue to weave a web of regulations with the sole intent to ban abortion in the state. We'll do everything in our power to protect access to medication abortion coverage for our patients.”

Phillips' decision was the second setback for Planned Parenthood in the last two weeks. A Jackson County judge last month rejected the organization's challenge to another requirement imposed by the Legislature in its special session, namely that abortion physicians themselves must meet with their patients three days before the procedure. 

Like Phillips, Judge S. Margene Burnett found that the requirement does not impose an "undue burden" on women. 

Late Friday afternoon, Planned Parenthood asked the Missouri Supreme Court to overrule Burnett. 

An order by a different federal judge blocking two other Missouri abortion restrictions remains in effect while the state appeals. Those restrictions were similar to ones enacted in Texas and struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court last year. One requires abortion physicians to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The other requires abortion clinics to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers. 

Dan Margolies is a senior reporter and editor for KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.

Dan Margolies has been a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star, and KCUR Public Radio. He retired as a reporter in December 2022 after a 37-year journalism career.
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