Clinic Takes On Missouri’s ‘Same-Physician’ Abortion Requirement

(CN) – Planned Parenthood is challenging Missouri’s abortion law, arguing a new provision requiring the same doctor to perform the procedure and discuss state-mandated medical information with patients will cause significant delays to women seeking care.

Two regional Planned Parenthood affiliates filed a lawsuit against Missouri Attorney General Joshua Hawley and other state officials on Tuesday in Jackson County Circuit Court, claiming that Senate Bill 5 places undue burdens on Missourians, denying them access to safe and legal abortion services.

The clinics want a judge to block the law before it goes into effect on Oct. 24. They are represented by Arthur Benson in Kansas City, Mo., and numerous attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union.

The complaint claims that the law violates women’s due process rights under the Missouri Constitution and is not enforceable because the “same physician” provision is unrelated to the original intent of the law.

Missouri’s restrictions on abortions already require that women seeking an abortion make two separate appointments and allow 72 hours to elapse between their first and second appointments.

Previously, any health care professional could discuss health information with the patient. Missouri will now require that the physician performing the procedure be the one to impart the state-mandated information.

“The same physician requirement will impose extreme burdens on physicians who provide abortion services in Missouri, some of whom will not be able to comply at all. As a result of the requirement, the Act will impose significant delays, greater medical risks, and other serious harms on patients, some of whom will be unable to access abortion at all,” the 23-page complaint states.

Health centers that fail to comply with the law could face criminal and licensing penalties, according to the lawsuit.

Loree Anne Paradise, Attorney General Hawley’s deputy chief of staff, defended the regulations.

“SB5 enacts sensible regulations that protect the health of women in Missouri and it is our duty and privilege to vigorously defend them,” Paradise said in an emailed statement.

Planned Parenthood said in a statement that the new regulations mean women could have to wait up to three to four weeks for an abortion procedure.

It says women in underserved areas, such as Springfield, Mo., could be forced to make two 300 to 400 mile round trips to make sure they see the same physician. The law could place a significant burden on young and low-income people, women of color and those who live in rural areas, the clinic argues.

According to Planned Parenthood, 70 percent of its patients at Reproductive Health Services Center in the St. Louis area have incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty line.

“Last year, the Supreme Court held that a woman should be able to get safe abortion care without needless delays or burdens and with respect and dignity,” Talcott Camp, the ACLU’s reproductive freedom project deputy director, said in a statement. “This Missouri law flies in the face of that ruling, disregards women’s health, and places politicians between a woman and her health care.”

Mary Kogut, president and CEO of Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, said,We are in court today to ensure that every person, no matter who they are or where they live, can make their own personal health care decisions without political interference.”

SB 5 was recently passed in a special session, according to the lawsuit.

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