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Supreme Court May Step Into Fight Over Missouri Abortion Restrictions

Jessica Mason Pieklo

Attorneys for Planned Parenthood on Friday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate an order blocking Missouri officials from enforcing two anti-abortion regulations.

Attorneys on behalf of Planned Parenthood on Friday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to step in and reinstate a lower court ruling that blocks the State of Missouri from enforcing anti-abortion regulations the attorneys claim are nearly identical to those ruled unconstitutional in last year’s Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt decision.  

The case involves two Missouri anti-abortion regulations. The first is a requirement that any doctor who provides abortion care—including medication abortions—have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic. The second regulation requires that any facility providing abortions be licensed as a surgical center, even if the facility does not provide surgical abortions. 

“As a doctor, I see just how hard it is on my patients when politicians put safe, legal abortion out of reach,” Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley, chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. “Many people don’t have the means to travel hundreds of miles or cross state lines to see a doctor, which means they simply go without care. We’re in court because every person deserves the right to decide whether and when to become a parent, regardless of who you are or where you live.”

Attorneys for Planned Parenthood in 2016 filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Missouri, arguing that the requirements were unconstitutional under Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. The district court blocked enforcement of the requirements in April 2017, ruling they were close enough to the Texas regulations at issue in Hellerstedt to be considered unconstitutional. 

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Attorneys for the State of Missouri appealed the district court’s order to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, asking it to stay the lower court’s order pending appeal. After a panel of judges on the Eighth Circuit declined to stay that order, attorneys for the state went to the full panel of Eighth Circuit judges, which agreed to stay the injunction.

Associate Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch handles requests for the Eighth Circuit. He could decide on his own to accept or reject the appeal or pass it on to the full court for consideration. The Court could issue a ruling as soon as this week.

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