Abortion advocacy groups file suit against Missouri laws

Crowds at the March for Life in Washington DC on Jan 27 2017 Credit Jeff Bruno 2 CNA The March for Life in Washington, D.C., Jan. 27, 2017. | Jeff Bruno.

Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a joint lawsuit July 30 in the US District Court for the Western District of Missouri Central Division in opposition to state laws regulating abortion, which are set to come into force Aug. 28.

The laws, which Gov. Mike Parson signed May 24, provide for 5-15 years in prison for doctors who perform abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy, except in the case that the doctor determines the life of the mother is in danger. Women who procure abortions would not be punished.

The plaintiffs also took issue with "invasive and medically inappropriate pelvic exams," which Missouri requires doctors to perform before every abortion.

They also objected to a provision in the new law prohibiting abortion on the basis of a Down syndrome diagnosis, or the sex of the fetus, saying that this forbids "patients from exercising their constitutionally protected right to a pre-viability abortion in Missouri, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution."

"Unless this Court grants Plaintiffs the relief they seek, the Bans will irreparably harm Plaintiffs and their patients by severely restricting access to pre-viability abortion care, preventing the vast majority of patients from obtaining the constitutionally protected medical care they seek," the plaintiffs argued.

Missouri's health department in June rejected a license renewal request from a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis, the last remaining abortion clinic in the state. The health department cited a failure to cooperate with state regulations, as well as four botched abortions, one in which the mother developed sepsis and another in which the patient was hospitalized with life threatening complications.

State circuit court judge Michael Stelzer had granted a preliminary injunction, allowing the clinic to continue operating past the end of the day on May 31, when its license was set to expire. He ruled that the clinic would face "immediate and irreparable injury" if its license lapsed and said the clinic could stay open while its case was being decided in court.

Missouri's Department of Health was given until June 21 to make a final ruling on whether it would renew the license.

A hearing to determine the abortion clinic's status had been set for Aug. 1, but Administrative Hearing Commissioner Sreenivasa Rao Dandamudi early this month tentatively rescheduled the hearing for the last week of October. Dandamudi had granted a stay that to allow the clinic to continue abortions as the licensing fight plays out before the Administrative Hearing Commission, WPSD reports.

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