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)

Trump administration seeks emergency court order to continue asylum policy

FILE PHOTO: Central American asylum seekers exit the Chaparral border crossing gate after being sent back to Mexico by the U.S. in Tijuana, Mexico, January 30, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo

By Tom Hals

WILMINGTON, Del. (Reuters) – The Trump administration rushed to save its program of sending asylum seekers back to Mexico by filing an emergency motion with a U.S. Court of Appeals, asking it to block an injunction that is set to shut down the policy on Friday afternoon.

The government told the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco the United States faced “a humanitarian and security crisis” at the southern border and needed immediate intervention to deal with the surging number of refugees.

On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg ruled the policy was contrary to U.S. immigration law. He issued a nationwide injunction blocking the program and ordered it to take effect at 8 p.m. EDT (midnight GMT).

Melissa Crow, an attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center, one of the groups that brought the case, said the stay should be denied to prevent irreparable harm to asylum seekers who could be unlawfully forced to return to Mexico.

Since January, the administration has sent more than 1,000 asylum seekers, mostly from Central America, back to Mexico to wait the months or years it can take to process claims through an overloaded immigration system.

Seeborg’s ruling also ordered the 11 plaintiffs who brought the lawsuit to be brought back to the United States.

Although it is appealing and the lower court order had yet to take effect, Reuters reporters confirmed that the Trump administration was allowing some asylum seekers from Mexico to return to the United States.

President Donald Trump has bristled at limits on his administration’s ability to detain asylum seekers while they fight deportation, and the administration was in the midst of expanding the program when Seeborg blocked it.

The government’s filing on Thursday night with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals asked for two stays: a brief administrative stay, which would remain in place until the parties had argued the issue of a longer stay that would block the injunction during the months-long appeals process.

Judy Rabinovitz, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union who worked on the case, said there did not appear to be any justification for the request for the administrative stay since asylum seekers were already returning to the United States.

“There’s no urgency,” she said. “They are already complying with the court order.”

The 9th Circuit Court has been a frequent target for Trump’s criticisms of the judicial system, which has blocked his immigration policies on numerous occasions.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Tom Brown)

Texan who published 3-D guns plans jailed on sex assault charge

Cody Wilson, a Texan 3-D printed gun maker who flew to Taiwan as police investigated an accusation he had sex with an underage girl, stands in the lobby of Your Hotel in Taipei, Taiwan, September 20, 2018 in this still image from CCTV footage. Courtesy "Your Hotel"/via Reuters TV

(Reuters) – A Texas man running a 3-D printed guns company was booked into a Houston jail on a charge of sexual assault on Sunday after Taiwanese officials sent him back to the United States, where he is accused of having sex with an underage girl.

Cody Wilson, 30, flew to Taiwan after learning he was under investigation, police said, and was picked up by Taiwanese authorities on Friday after his U.S. passport was annulled. He was deported to the United States on Saturday.

He was booked into Harris County jail in Houston on Sunday, according to the jail’s website.

Wilson’s attorney, Samy Khalil, said in a statement late on Sunday: “We are glad that Cody is back in Texas again where we can work with him on his case. That’s our focus right now, representing our client and preparing his defense.”

As the founder of Defense Distributed, Wilson became a notable figure in the U.S. debate over guns after the company posted on the internet the blueprints for plastic guns that can be made with a 3-D printer.

The files could previously be downloaded for free but a federal judge issued a nationwide injunction last month that blocked the posting of the blueprints online.

Wilson was placed under investigation after a counselor told authorities on Aug. 22 a 16-year-old girl said she was paid $500 to have sex with Wilson at an Austin hotel, police said.

Investigators later interviewed the girl and obtained a warrant for Wilson’s arrest on Wednesday, but by then he had caught a flight to Taiwan. Police said at the time they were aware Wilson traveled often for business but that it was not clear why he had flown to Taiwan.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Paul Tait)

Texan running 3-D printed guns company apprehended in Taiwan

Cody Wilson appears in a handout photo provided by the U.S. Marshals Service, September 21, 2018. U.S. Marshals Service/Handout via REUTERS

By Jon Herskovitz and Yimou Lee

AUSTIN, Texas/TAIPEI (Reuters) – A Texan running a 3-D printed guns company who flew to Taiwan as police investigated an accusation that he had sex with an underage girl was apprehended in Taipei on Friday after U.S. authorities annulled his passport, officials said.

Cody Wilson, 30, was taken to immigration authorities in the capital by officers from Taiwan’s Criminal Investigation Bureau, according to local media reports and an official from the bureau who asked not to be named. However, two Taiwanese officials denied Wilson was arrested or in custody. His exact status was unclear.

Wilson, who is at the center of a U.S. legal battle over his plan to publish instructions for the manufacture of 3-D printed plastic guns, flew into Taiwan legally, the country’s National Immigration Agency said in a statement on Friday. Because his U.S. passport was later annulled, the agency’s statement said, he “no longer has the legal status to stay in Taiwan.”

A lawyer for Wilson, as well as representatives of the Austin Police Department and the U.S. Marshals Service, were not immediately available for comment on Friday.

Taiwan does not have an extradition treaty with the United States.

Austin police have said Wilson flew to Taiwan earlier this month after a friend told him officers were investigating an allegation by a 16-year-old girl who said she was paid $500 to have sex with him at a hotel in the Texas capital.

Police said investigators interviewed the girl and on Wednesday obtained a warrant for Wilson’s arrest, but he had flown to Taiwan by then.

Police said they are aware that Wilson travels often for business, but that they do not know why he went to Taiwan.

Wilson is the founder of Defense Distributed, the focus of a legal and political battle over its placing on the internet blueprints for plastic guns that can be made with a 3-D printer.

The files could previously be downloaded for free, but a federal judge issued a nationwide injunction last month that blocked the posting of the blueprints online.

Gun control proponents are concerned that such weapons will be untraceable, undetectable “ghost” firearms that pose a threat to global security.

Some gun rights groups say the technology is expensive, the guns are unreliable and the threat is overblown.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Additional reporting by Yimou Lee in Taipei and Gina Cherelus in New York; editing by Bill Berkrot)