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Planned Parenthood, Satanic Temple score initial wins in abortion fight

Planned Parenthood, Satanic Temple score initial wins in abortion fight

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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 • Planned Parenthood's legal fight to expand abortion access in Missouri has taken another turn, this time in Planned Parenthood's favor.

And, a follower of a group called the Satanic Temple has won a key ruling in a separate abortion case moving through the state's court system.

Planned Parenthood is trying to offer abortions in Columbia, Joplin and Springfield, and has been wrangling in the courts for the ability to do so.

Its tug of war with the state and abortion foes centers on regulations Planned Parenthood argues are on par with tough rules implemented in Texas, which the U.S. Supreme Court tossed last year.

Missouri's regulations require physicians to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and strictly regulate physical requirements at clinics.

In April, citing the Supreme Court, a U.S. district judge issued a preliminary injunction against Missouri's abortion rules, blocking the state from enforcing the regulations.

Last month, Attorney General Josh Hawley asked the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to stay the preliminary injunction. The court eventually did so.

On Monday afternoon, however, the court issued a one-sentence order denying the stay, essentially reversing itself.

After that news, Planned Parenthood said it withdrew a Sept. 22 request for the Supreme Court to overrule the 8th Circuit's previous decision, saying Monday's order made the request moot.

Planned Parenthood says the 8th Circuit's unexplained move will allow the group to continue seeking licenses in Columbia, Springfield and Joplin while the group and the state seek final word on the legality of Missouri's regulations.

“I am extremely disappointed in the 8th Circuit's decision," Hawley said in a statement released by his office. "My office will continue to fight for common sense regulations that protect the health and well-being of Missouri women."

Meantime, in the Satanic Temple case, the Missouri Court of Appeals Western District said plaintiff “Mary Doe” of Springfield raised enough constitutional questions in her arguments for her appeal of state abortion laws to be referred directly to the seven-member Missouri Supreme Court.

At issue is Doe’s attempt to use a religious waiver to exempt herself from a portion of Missouri’s abortion laws.

Under the law, patients are required to wait 72 hours between an initial consultation with a doctor and the actual appointment to have an abortion. Other provisions call for patients to look at a booklet about abortion and be offered the opportunity to listen to the fetus’ heartbeat.

Doe argues that violates her religious belief. Her claim was rejected at the circuit court level, but the appeals court said it is an issue that needs to be examined.

“Neither the Missouri Supreme Court nor the U.S. Supreme Court has considered whether a booklet of this nature, an ultrasound, an audible heartbeat offer, and a seventy-two-hour waiting period violate the religion clause rights of pregnant women,” the ruling noted.

James MacNaughton, a New Jersey attorney who represented Doe, said his client disagrees with the central tenet of the Missouri law.

“The concept of saying that human life begins at conception is a religious belief,”MacNaughton told the Post-Dispatch Tuesday.

He said Doe is an adherent to the Satanic Temple, a political activist group that promotes science and social justice.

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