Planned Parenthood Sues to Block Missouri Abortion Restrictions

Anti-abortion advocates gather outside the Planned Parenthood clinic on June 4, 2019, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (CN) – Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit against the state of Missouri in federal court Tuesday in an attempt to stop the state’s sweeping abortion bans.

Governor Mike Parson, a Republican, signed a bill May 24 banning abortions on or after the eighth week of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape or incest. In addition to the eight-week cutoff, the bill also imposes a penalty of up to 15 years in prison for doctors who violate the ban. Women who receive abortions would not be prosecuted.

The bill, which is set to become law Aug. 28, also includes an outright ban on abortions if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned.

Missouri has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, with a 72-hour waiting period in addition to the impending eight-week ban.

Planned Parenthood, along with the ACLU and the firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP sued Parson, Attorney General Eric Schmitt and several other prosecuting attorneys and health officials challenging the ban.

“Planned Parenthood will not cower to politicians who are trying to dismantle our access to safe, legal abortion – not in Missouri, and not anywhere else,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, Acting President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a statement. “These dangerous and illegal bans put people’s health and lives at risk. We are living in a terrifying world where politicians are doing all they can to overturn Roe v. Wade – no matter how many people’s lives they put at risk. This is not what people want: 77% of Americans support Roe v. Wade and access to abortion. Until politicians listen to the overwhelming majority of Americans who want abortion to remain safe, legal, and accessible, we will fight to ensure that every person can still access reproductive health care: no matter what.”

A spokesperson for Missouri did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the lawsuit, but it is the state’s previous policy not to comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit is the latest in an ongoing legal battle between Planned Parenthood and Missouri.

In another matter, Planned Parenthood has a hearing set with the Administrative Hearing Commission on Thursday in an attempt to reverse the state’s decision to deny its abortion license. If the license denial is ultimately allowed, Missouri would become the first state without any abortion providers since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 landmark decision, which legalized abortion up until 22 to 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Missouri is just one GOP-dominated states serving as a battleground for abortion rights. Supporters of abortion bans welcome legal challenges because they want the case to make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes of overturning Roe v. Wade.

“Gov. Parson and anti-abortion politicians are on a mission to end access to safe, legal abortion in Missouri,” said Dr. Colleen McNicholas, Chief Medical Officer, Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, in a statement. “This law passed in May, just as Gov. Parson launched a failed attempt to end abortion in Missouri through the state’s health center licensing process. We are in the fight of our lives to protect abortion for 1.1 million Missouri women of reproductive age in our state. The attacks are relentless, but our commitment to our patients’ rights and freedoms is unwavering.

“We want every person to know that these abortion bans in our state are not in effect yet. Planned Parenthood’s doors are open. Abortion remains safe and legal. We will not back down from this fight. Gov. Parson, we’ll see you in court.”

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