The Columbia abortion clinic operated by Planned Parenthood passed its state inspection and is ready to resume operations if a federal judge will issue an order barring the state from enforcing its law requiring hospital privileges for doctors at the facility.

In court documents filed last Friday, Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood Great Plains asked U.S. District Judge Brian Wimes to issue a preliminary injunction against the law, which Wimes refused to do in October because the clinic hadn’t completed its other licensing requirements.

Abortions in Missouri have only been available in St. Louis since that October ruling and the travel distances required to terminate a pregnancy legally are a major factor in the arguments for granting the injunction, the filing signed by attorneys Arthur Benson and Jennifer Sandman stated.

“All women in the Columbia area who seek abortions in Missouri while the Columbia health center is unable to provide them are forced to travel 245 miles, twice, to the St. Louis health center, which requires taking time off work and potentially losing wages, arranging for child care for multiple days, and potentially losing the confidentiality of their abortion decision as a result of needing to make these arrangements,” the attorneys wrote.

The latest filings show Planned Parenthood wants to begin seeing women seeking abortions at the clinic on Providence Road beginning Jan. 28.

In a statement sent via email, Emily Wales, general counsel and chief compliance officer for Comprehensive Health, wrote that Planned Parenthood is "eager to resume abortion services at our Columbia health center" and save women from the lengthy drives to St. Louis.

"We have requested relief in federal district court from a medically unnecessary requirement that is virtually identical to one struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016," she wrote. "Aside from Missouri’s unconstitutional hospital admitting privileges requirement, we have completed the state’s licensing process and are prepared to resume abortion services in January.”

Mary Compton, Attorney General Josh Hawley’s spokeswoman, said the office would oppose relicensing without a doctor who has hospital privileges.

"We will continue to vigorously defend these regulations that protect women’s health and safety," Compton said.

Planned Parenthood began offering abortions in 1974 in Columbia and the three-month period when abortions have not been available in Columbia is the third such period since 2012 and the second as a result of state laws being challenged in federal court. From 2012 to 2015, there was no physician available to perform abortions. The clinic was relicensed in July 2015 and provided medication-induced abortions until Dec. 1, 2015, when University of Missouri Hospital, under intense political pressure, stopped issuing the privileges held by the clinic’s doctor.

Abortions resumed in October 2017 when U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs, citing a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on a similar Texas law, ordered the state to issue clinic licenses without enforcing the privileges requirement.

Under the state law, a physician who performs abortions must have treating privileges at a hospital in the same community as the clinic. Politics and policies prevent Colleen McNicholas, the Washington University physician who would perform abortions in Columbia, from obtaining privileges, the attorneys wrote in the papers filed Friday.

Pressure from state lawmakers caused MU Hospital to end privileges held by McNicholas, they wrote. And Boone Hospital Center rules mean she can’t get privileges there, they wrote.

“The only other hospital within the required distance from the Columbia health center requires that a physician who already holds privileges at the hospital agree to provide backup coverage to the applying physician, and the backup physician must be identified on the applying physician’s application form,” they wrote. “The Columbia health center has been unable to identify a physician willing to be so identified.”