Denied a license, Missouri’s only abortion clinic awaits judge’s ruling

FILE PHOTO: Planned Parenthood's employees look on as anti-abortion rights advocates hold a rally in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., June 4, 2019. REUTERS/Lawrence Bryant

By Robert Langellier

ST. LOUIS (Reuters) – Missouri health officials on Friday refused to renew the license of the state’s only abortion clinic, but the facility will remain open for now as a judge left in place an injunction blocking its closure.

At a brief circuit court hearing on Friday, Judge Michael Stelzer said it might be days before the court would come to a decision on whether the state could shut its only abortion clinic, which is operated by women’s healthcare and abortion provider Planned Parenthood.

“I think you guys are expecting an order soon. I don’t know that order is going to be today,” Stelzer said during the hearing, which lasted less than five minutes.

If the clinic were to close, Missouri would become the only U.S. state without a legal abortion clinic.

Missouri officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“This decision signals the true motive behind this license renewal mess that has left patients in limbo, uncertain about their health care: to ban abortion without ever overturning Roe v. Wade,” Dr. Colleen McNicholas, a physician at Planned Parenthood’s Missouri clinic, said in a statement.

The state is one of 12 to pass laws restricting abortion access this year, some aimed at provoking a U.S. Supreme Court review of the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that recognized a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy.

Planned Parenthood sued Missouri health officials after they warned they would decline to renew the license of the Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis on the grounds it failed to meet their standards.

Stelzer on June 10 issued a preliminary injunction blocking the clinic’s closure until the state made an official decision on its license.

Abortion is one of the most divisive issues in the United States, with opponents often citing religious beliefs to call it immoral.

The legal battle in Missouri began after Governor Mike Parson, a Republican, signed a bill on May 24 banning abortion beginning in the eighth week of pregnancy.

Planned Parenthood has vowed to fight to protect abortion access in Missouri and to push back on regulatory standards that the women’s healthcare organization believes put a burden on abortion rights.

Court documents show that Missouri health officials declined to renew the clinic’s license to perform abortions because they were unable to interview seven of its physicians over “potential deficient practices.”

(Reporting by Robert Langellier in St. Louis; writing by Gabriella Borter; editing by Scott Malone, Sonya Hepinstall and Jonathan Oatis)

Fate of Missouri’s only abortion clinic at stake as St. Louis judge holds hearing

A banner stating "STILL HERE" hangs on the side of the Planned Parenthood Building after a judge granted a temporary restraining order on the closing of Missouri's sole remaining Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S. May 31, 2019. REUTERS/Lawrence Bryant

(Reuters) – The fate of Missouri’s only abortion clinic will be at stake on Tuesday when a St. Louis judge hears arguments in Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit aimed at forcing state health officials to renew the facility’s license to perform the procedure.

Planned Parenthood sued Missouri last week after state health officials refused to renew the license of Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood in St. Louis because, they said, they were unable to interview seven of its physicians over “potential deficient practices,” according to court documents.

Abortion is one of the most socially divisive issues in U.S. politics, with opponents often citing religious beliefs to call it immoral. Abortion-rights advocates say the bans amount to state control of women’s bodies.

St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Michael Stelzer intervened on Friday before the clinic’s license to perform abortions was set to expire at midnight. He issued a temporary restraining order against the state at the request of Planned Parenthood, allowing the clinic to continue offering the procedure.

Stelzer will hold a hearing on Tuesday morning on motions filed by Planned Parenthood in its request for a preliminary injunction that would keep the clinic open longer. He could schedule more hearings or rule on the request.

If the facility’s license is not renewed, Missouri would become the only U.S. state without an abortion clinic since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 that established a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy.

The legal battle in St. Louis began after Missouri Governor Mike Parson, a Republican, signed a bill on May 24 banning abortion beginning in the eighth week of pregnancy, making Missouri one of nine U.S. states to pass anti-abortion legislation this year.

Anti-abortion activists say they aim to prompt the newly installed conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade by enacting laws such as the one recently passed in Missouri that are virtually assured of facing court challenges.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in CHICAGO; Editing by Paul Tait)

Missouri abortion clinic to stay open for now after court order

Pro-Life supporters protest outside of Planned Parenthood as a deadline looms to renew the license of Missouri's sole remaining Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S. May 31, 2019. REUTERS/Lawrence Bryant

By Pavithra George

ST. LOUIS (Reuters) – Missouri’s only abortion clinic will stay open at least a few more days after a judge on Friday granted a request by Planned Parenthood for a temporary restraining order, allowing the facility to keep operating until a hearing on Tuesday.

Planned Parenthood sued Missouri this week after state health officials said the license for Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood in St. Louis was in jeopardy, meaning the clinic could have closed at midnight unless the judge granted the request for a temporary restraining order.

“Today is a victory for women across Missouri, but this fight is far from over,” Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen said in a statement after Circuit Court Judge Michael Stelzer agreed to the organization’s request.

Representatives for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services could not be immediately reached for comment.

Health officials had refused to renew the clinic’s license because, they said, they were unable to interview seven of its physicians over “potential deficient practices,” according to documents filed in a St. Louis court.

The legal battle in St. Louis comes a week after Missouri Governor Mike Parson, a Republican, signed a bill banning abortion beginning in the eighth week of pregnancy, making Missouri one of nine U.S. states to pass anti-abortion legislation this year.

On Friday, Stelzer said the clinic’s license would remain in effect until a ruling is made on Planned Parenthood’s request for a preliminary injunction against the state. A hearing on that matter is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Tuesday.

Outside the clinic on Friday, a handful of anti-abortion protesters stood holding “Choose Life” signs.

Abortion is one of the most socially divisive issues in U.S. politics, with opponents often citing religious beliefs to call it immoral, while abortion-rights advocates say the bans amount to state control of women’s bodies.

Anti-abortion activists say they aim to prompt the newly installed conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade by enacting laws that are virtually assured of facing court challenges.

 

(Additional reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York; Editing by Scott Malone, Leslie Adler and David Gregorio)

Kentucky trial could make state first in U.S. with no abortion clinic

Kentucky trial could make state first in U.S. with no abortion clinic

By Chris Kenning

(Reuters) – Kentucky’s “unapologetically pro-life” governor and the state’s last abortion clinic will square off on Wednesday in a federal courtroom in a case that could make it the first U.S. state without an abortion provider.

In a three-day trial, the state will argue before a U.S. District judge in Louisville that EMW Women’s Surgical Center does not have proper state-required agreements with a hospital and an ambulance service in case of medical emergencies.

The clinic, which earlier this year filed suit to stop the state from revoking its license, wants to overturn the regulations it says are unnecessary and create an unconstitutional barrier to abortion.

“In 37 years providing abortion, I’ve seen more than a dozen clinics close down in our state, and now ours is the last clinic standing in the entire state,” Ernest Marshall, a doctor and EMW clinic founder, said in a statement.

“The very right to access legal abortion in the state of Kentucky is on the line,” he added.

The case could test court interpretations of last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down parts of a Texas law that required clinics to meet hospital-like standards and for clinic doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

Despite that ruling, conservative legislatures and Republican governors such as Kentucky’s Matt Bevin have continued to tighten new regulations on abortion clinics.

U.S. state legislatures enacted 41 new abortion restrictions in the first half of 2017, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health think tank that supports abortion rights.

Abortion rights groups say that has reduced access to abortion, particularly in rural areas of the South and Midwest. Kentucky is among seven U.S. states with just one clinic left.

Bevin, whose administration waged a licensing battle in 2016 that led to the shutdown of a Lexington clinic, argued the transfer agreements in question were meant to protect women.

“It is telling that the abortion industry believes that it alone should be exempt from these important safety measures,” said Bevin spokeswoman Amanda Stamper.

EMW, which is the site of almost daily protests, argues that hospitals are already legally bound to accept any patient in an emergency and local EMS will transport patients without such agreements.

Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky joined the suit because it said the same transfer agreements were used to block a license for a facility in Louisville. The American Civil Liberties Union is providing legal help to the clinic.

(Reporting by Chris Kenning; Editing by Andrew Hay)

Mississippi Asks Supreme Court to Uphold Abortion Law

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood has filed an appeal with the Supreme Court asking them to hear the case involving a Mississippi law regarding admitting privileges for doctors who perform abortions.

The law passed the Mississippi legislature in 2012 that would require abortionists to have board certification and obtain hospital admitting privileges.  The second part was aimed to allow women who are injured by the abortionist to be rushed to local hospitals for further treatment.

Supporters say the bill is aimed to protect the lives of the women who choose to have an abortion.

The state’s lone abortion center, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, immediately filed suit saying they would not be able to meet the law’s requirements.  Eventually they said that the state did not have the right to pass laws that would close all abortion facilities in the state.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans struck down the law.

Mississippi Attorney General Hood says a similar law was upheld by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, so the Supreme Court needs to weigh in to fix the conflict.

Supreme Court Blocks Texas Abortion Law

The U.S. Supreme Court has stepped in to block a law that was designed to protect the health of women seeking to end the lives of their babies via abortion in Texas.

In an unsigned order from the court, they supported abortionists and those who advocate the killing of babies via abortion by suspending the October 2nd ruling of an appeals court that said that Texas law could take effect while appeals take place.

The court also put on hold a part of the law that requires doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals for abortionists near the Texas/Mexico border.

“This does not protect the health and safety of women who are undergoing abortion,” said Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life. “”This is definitely a short-term loss, but not necessarily a long- term loss.”

Texas state attorneys say that the law is not a burden on women who want to kill their babies, because nearly 9 in 10 women still live within 150 miles of an abortionist.

Appeals Court Upholds Texas Abortion Law

A Federal appeals court has upheld a Texas law that will close many of the state’s abortion facilities.

A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans reversed the decision of Judge Lee Yeakel, the second time his rulings to keep abortion clinics from having to meet cleanliness standards for surgical centers had been overturned by the appeals court.

“Without any evidence on these points, plaintiffs do not appear to have met their burden to show that the ambulatory surgical center provision will result in insufficient clinic capacity that will impose an undue burden on a large fraction of women,” the appeals court ruled.

While those standing for the lives of unborn children were pleased with the ruling, they were disappointed that abortions will still continue in the state.

“The reality is that elective abortions will continue to remain readily available in Texas; that’s not our preference, but that’s the reality,” Joe Pojman, executive director of the Alliance for Life, told reporters. “Because there are seven very large ambulatory surgical centers that provide abortion in the major metropolitan cities women will still have ready access to elective abortions.”

Appeals Court Rejects Texas Appeal Of Abortion Ruling

A federal appeals court has rejected an appeal from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott regarding a ruling that blocks parts of the state’s strong abortion law.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the appeal on the grounds that Abbott was too late in filing the appeal.

“[Abbott] waited until 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 31 to file the stay motion; a corrected version was sent at 12:08 a.m. Monday, Sept. 1,” decided the Fifth Circuit.  “This did not allow time for a response, or for the court adequately to consider the motion, before the scheduled effective date, though the appellants claim irreparable harm from the statute’s not being enforced.”

Abbott had appealed a decision that stops the regulations regarding abortion clinics having the same safety standards as ambulatory surgical centers.  Judge Lee Yeakel, who had attempted to strike down the law previously before being overruled on appeal, said the requirements clinics have health standards like surgical centers makes it too hard for a woman to kill their child via abortion.

The ruling now will stand pending a full appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Texas Abortion Law Struck Down

A Federal judge has ruled that because a majority of abortion clinic providers refused to make changes to their clinics as required by a Texas law and thus would have to close, the law is unconstitutional.

District Judge Lee Yeakel, who had previously ruled against the law in a case that was quickly overturned by an appeals court, said that requiring clinics to widen doors so paramedics could bring in a stretcher for a woman in distress is “too costly for abortion clinic owners” and therefore puts an undue burden on women wanting to kill their baby via abortion.

“The court concludes that the act’s [House Bill 2] ambulatory surgical center requirement, combined with the already-in-effect admitting privileges requirement, creates a brutally effective system of abortion regulation that reduces accesses to abortion clinics, thereby creating a statewide burden for a substantial number of Texas women,” Yeakel wrote.

The clinics had a year to bring their clinics up to the new standards but some abortion providers just refused to make the changes.  That did not matter to the judge.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said the state will appeal the decision.

Suit Filed Against Louisiana Abortion Law

Abortionists have filed a lawsuit against the state of Louisiana over a law that the claim will force them to close.

HB 388 passed the Louisiana House of Representatives 88-5 and the Senate 34-3.  The bill would require abortionists to obtain admitting privileges if a woman is injured during an abortion and require further medical care.

“On the date the abortion is performed or induced, a physician performing or inducing an abortion shall have active admitting privileges at a hospital that is located not further than thirty miles from the location at which the abortion is performed or induced and that provides obstetrical or gynecological health care services,” the bill reads.

The lawsuit claims that there is not a sufficient amount of time from the passage of the law until it goes into effect for the clinics to obtain the approvals necessary to stay open after September 1st.

Laws similar to the Louisiana law have been upheld in most other states including Texas, where at the end of 2014 it’s predicted only 6 of 41 abortion clinics will remain open.