A Missouri judge on Wednesday blocked a pair of medically unnecessary abortion restrictions, citing a U.S. Supreme Court decision last summer that struck down similarly onerous provisions in Texas.
The preliminary injunction means that Planned Parenthood will be able to expand abortion services to four additional facilities in the state, according to a statement by the Missouri Planned Parenthood affiliates that brought the lawsuit. The health-care provider sued in November 2016 in federal court to block anti-abortion provisions in Missouri law requiring abortion clinics to be outfitted like mini-hospitals and doctors to maintain hospital admitting privileges.
Missouri is home to nearly 1.2 million women of reproductive age, but only one licensed abortion facility, as Rewire reported. Pregnant people must drive 370 miles to reach the sole facility in St. Louis, according to advocates.
“Medically unnecessary restrictions like admitting privileges and ambulatory surgical center requirements are state mandated laws thought up by extremists in Jefferson City,” Laura A. McQuade, Planned Parenthood Great Plains president and CEO, and Mary M. Kogut, Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region president and CEO, said in a joint statement. “Today’s victory means countless Missourians will have expanded access to safe, legal abortion.”
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The decision means abortion services might soon be available in Joplin, Kansas City, Springfield, and Columbia, Planned Parenthood told the court.
U.S. District Judge Howard F. Sachs, in a 17-page preliminary injunction, echoed the decision last summer by the nation’s highest court in the Texas case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.
Sachs wrote, “At oral argument in the Supreme Court, Texas counsel acknowledged that he could not cite ‘a single instance in which the new [admitting privilege] requirement would have helped even one woman obtain better treatment.'”
Imposing the requirement on Missouri abortion providers, Sachs continued, has “crippled” abortion access.
Sachs wrote that outfitting abortion clinics like mini-hospitals imposes burdens that have closed or prevented Missouri clinics from expanding services.
Medically unnecessary restrictions have fallen in other states, such as Tennessee, where officials said last week they would not enforce two anti-abortion laws, as Rewire reported. One of the GOP-backed restrictions threatened to close two of Tennessee’s six abortion clinics, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.