JEFFERSON CITY — Abortions will stop at Planned Parenthood's Columbia clinic after Oct. 1 unless a federal judge blocks enforcement of one of Missouri's abortion restrictions, attorneys for Planned Parenthood wrote in court documents.
The organization on Wednesday asked a federal district court judge to stop Missouri from requiring doctors at the Columbia location to get admitting privileges at nearby hospitals in order to perform abortions.
Planned Parenthood wrote in court documents that the Columbia clinic can't meet that requirement and said enforcing it would mean St. Louis would be the only site that can provide abortions.
"Without further relief from this Court, at least 22% of women seeking abortion at the Columbia facility will be prevented entirely from exercising their constitutional right to choose, due to their inability to travel the long distance to obtain an abortion in St. Louis," Planned Parenthood attorneys wrote in their request for a court order. "Others will be delayed or otherwise burdened by having to make the long trip."
Mary Compton, spokeswoman for Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, said in a statement Thursday that the office "will continue to vigorously defend Missouri's commonsense regulations that protect women's health and safety."
Planned Parenthood affiliates with Missouri health centers filed the underlying lawsuit to block state requirements on admitting privileges and mandates that clinics meet hospital-like standards for outpatient surgery. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2016 struck down similar rules in Texas.
U.S District Judge Howard Sachs in May 2017 issued a temporary restraining order to block the admitting privileges rule. But his action was undone earlier this month by judges on the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, who argued Sachs didn't do enough to weigh the cost benefits of Missouri's rules and sent the case back to the lower court.
Now Planned Parenthood is asking for the rules to be put on hold again, but this time only for the Columbia location. There's a tight deadline before abortion services will be cut: Appeals judges are expected to issue their final mandate that will allow the law to take effect Oct. 1, and abortions are scheduled for Oct. 3 in Columbia.
"If we aren't able to get an injunction or restraining order against the admitting privileges requirement, women will immediately be impacted and unable to access care that they previously scheduled," Planned Parenthood Great Plains General Counsel Emily Wales said.