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Planned Parenthood affiliates sue to block unconstitutional regulations

ST. LOUIS – Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) has blocked expansion of medication abortion services in the state through regulations implementing Senate Bill 5, according to a suit filed by two Planned Parenthood affiliates. The state agency has blocked medication abortion at a Planned Parenthood health center in Columbia, also calling into question stalled efforts to obtain a license in Springfield and Joplin.

In a new set of regulations, DHSS is mandating “complication plans” in which the department requires providers of medication abortion to contract with a board-certified, licensed OBGYN with admitting privileges at a local hospital to be on call. The U.S. District Court (Judge Sachs) earlier this year blocked Missouri’s hospital privilege requirements after the Supreme Court in 2016 declared nearly identical medically unnecessary Texas restrictions to be unconstitutional.

“Missouri continues to take extraordinary steps to limit access to abortion without regard to the safety of women in our state.” said Mary M. Kogut, president and CEO of RHS. “We will continue to fight to ensure our patients have access to the health care they need.”  

The state’s complication plan requirements have been implemented despite overwhelming medical evidence about the safety of abortion. The complaint, filed today by Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region (RHS) and Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood Great Plains (PPGP), seeks an injunction from the U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Mo.

“I remain very concerned that the state will attempt to block licensure in Springfield and Joplin in defiance of the Judge Sachs’ order,” Kogut added. “This will force women to drive hundreds of miles and spend time away from their family, or forego care altogether.” The Planned Parenthood health center in Springfield is currently awaiting its license after an Oct. 10-11 inspection which followed multiple state delays. The Planned Parenthood health center in Joplin has not yet been inspected.

This is the second suit filed against Missouri related to SB 5 since it passed in July 2017. Planned Parenthood affiliates in Missouri previously challenged the constitutionality of a different provision of the law in state court. That case is ongoing.

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Background

Senate Bill 5

  • SB5 was passed during Missouri’s extraordinary and expensive special session on abortion. It resulted in 30 pages worth of medically unnecessary and ideologically extreme abortion restrictions.
  • The same-physician mandate under SB5 is under legal challenge. It requires the abortion provider to also go through consent forms with the patient 72 hours before the procedure or before the pill is dispensed. This seemingly moderate restriction targets abortion providers who are already thinly stretched in a state that discourages physicians from providing abortion services by passing countless restrictions that do nothing to further the health and safety of women.
  • SB5 also requires a “complication plan” but does not provide specific details of what should be included in the plan. SB5 provides open-ended language that allows the state to craft a variety of rules under the plan, which now include a second OBGYN physician with hospital admitting privileges.

Hospital Admitting Privileges

  • Leading medical authorities like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Medical Association (AMA) have said hospital admitting privileges are medically unnecessary when it comes to abortion providers.
  • The Supreme Court of the United States, in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, agreed. It ruled hospital admitting privileges in Texas unconstitutional and burdensome to women seeking safe, legal abortion.
  • PPGP and RHS filed a lawsuit against Missouri’s hospital admitting privilege requirements when it comes to doctors who provide abortion services. A federal appeals court has blocked this requirement from being enforced.