Beliefnet News

Jefferson City, Mo. – August 20, 2007 – Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to strike down a new Missouri law that it claims could eliminate abortion services in large parts of the state by subjecting clinics to stringent state oversight.
The federal lawsuit contends that the law, which takes effect Aug. 28, would infringe on abortion rights, and asks a judge for an injunction blocking it.
If the law takes effect, Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri claims it will be forced to halt abortions at its Columbia and Kansas City offices – either permanently or while costly and “medically unnecessary” renovations are made.
That would leave the St. Louis area as the only place in Missouri with functioning abortion facilities, the lawsuit said, although Planned Parenthood also operates an abortion clinic just across the state line in Kansas.
“This onerous legislation has nothing to do with protecting women’s health and safety,” said Peter Brownlie, chief executive officer of the Planned Parenthood branch. “This is a blatant attempt to close down clinics and deny women their right to health care.”
Missouri’s anti-abortion majority in the Legislature contends the law is necessary to ensure the health and safety of women seeking abortions.
Republican state Sen. Delbert Scott, a lead sponsor of the legislation, cast doubt on Planned Parenthood’s claims of financial hardship and forced clinic closures. But he added, “Certainly, abortion is our target here and we’re trying to save the lives of our children. We feel it’s a fair way to regulate them like other procedures.”
Missouri already requires abortion facilities to be licensed, but because of the definition of an abortion facility – requiring abortions to generate half its revenues or patients – the St. Louis Planned Parenthood clinic has been the only facility in Missouri actually regulated as an abortion clinic.
The new law pulls more clinics under the state’s umbrella by requiring any facility that performs more than five first-trimester abortions a month, or any second- or third-trimester abortions, to meet the licensure requirements for an “ambulatory surgical center.”
Among the new requirements noted in the lawsuit: outpatient surgery centers must have halls at least 6 feet wide and doors at least 44 inches wide; there must be separate male and female changing rooms for personnel; and a recovery room with space for at least four beds with 3 feet of clearance around each.
The Columbia clinic performs first-trimester surgical abortions, as well as medically induced abortions. The Kansas City office offers only medically induced abortions.
Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Michelle Trupiano said it would cost about $600,000 to renovate its Columbia clinic. The organization contends that because both facilities already exist, they should be exempt from meeting the new physical requirements.
Health department director Jane Drummond and Scott cast doubt on whether Attorney General Jay Nixon – an abortion-rights supporter and Democrat running for governor – would aggressively defend the law. The health department said it was exploring whether to use its own in-house attorneys or hire private attorneys instead of relying on Nixon’s office.
A Nixon spokesman said the attorney general’s office planned to defend the law and the health department, but declined to otherwise comment about the lawsuit.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.