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Federal judge to block Missouri abortion restrictions

Federal judge to block Missouri abortion restrictions

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Planned Parenthood-Missouri

Andrew Ward, left, and Bill Pauls make their positions on abortion clear during a 2015 rally at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia, Mo. 

JEFFERSON CITY • A federal judge intends to block the two abortion restrictions at the center of a legal challenge mounted by Planned Parenthood affiliates in Missouri.

In a memo to attorneys sent Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs said he planned to grant a preliminary injunction invalidating requirements for the state’s abortion clinics to meet standards for surgical centers and for their doctors to have hospital privileges.

Sachs cites a U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down similar restrictions in Texas, a landmark decision that deemed those laws unnecessary and unconstitutional.

“Missouri has not complied with that decision,” Sachs, of the Western District of Missouri in Kansas City, wrote.

The judge also gave the state 10 days to come up with a plan to avoid “unintended collateral damage” to other abortion clinic requirements “outside the concern of the Supreme Court in the Texas case.”

Based on that submission, “the judgment to be entered could alleviate those concerns,” he said.

Missouri’s GOP-led Legislature has long supported efforts to limit abortion access in the Show-Me state. Supporters argue the restrictions challenged in this lawsuit protect the health of women by ensuring the procedure is performed in safe, clean facilities.

Abortion advocates contend that the restrictions at hand are so stringent that few providers can meet them. Currently, the only facility that can perform abortions in Missouri is the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis.

A ruling in Planned Parenthood’s favor could open the door for abortions to be performed at other clinics throughout the state.

“We look forward to working with the court and the state to expand access to safe, legal abortion in the state as soon as possible,” Mary Kogut, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of St. Louis, said in a statement.

The organization has already vowed, should the judge block the laws, to immediately restore abortion services at health centers in Columbia and Kansas City and to begin performing them in Joplin and Springfield, Mo.

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St. Louis Post-Dispatch political reporter.

Related to this story

Federal Judge Howard Sachs is expected to block Missouri’s abortion clinic restrictions soon, the logical next step to the momentous U.S. Supreme Court decision last June striking down provisions in a Texas abortion law that justices said imposed unconstitutional burdens on women’s access to abortion. It's time for lawmakers to stop erecting barriers designed to prevent women from exercising their legal rights. Theirs is the wrong approach to the goal of reducing the rate of unplanned pregnancies.

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