Federal judge rules against Planned Parenthood

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COLUMBIA - A U.S. District judge denied an effort by Planned Parenthood to stop the enforcement of state regulation of medication-induced abortions. 

In the ruling, Judge Beth Phillips said Planned Parenthood did not prove that enough women will be denied access to abortions under state rules imposed last year. 

The state passed a regulation last year prohibiting doctors from prescribing or administering medication-induced abortions without getting a "complication plan" approved from the Department of Health and Senior Services. In the suit, Planned Parenthood challenged these regulations.

Phillips denied this request in part because Planned Parenthood in Columbia did not submit a complication plan before filing the suit.

Some of the conditions of the "complication plan" include:

  • "Any information deemed necessary by the department to ensure the safety of any patient suffering complications as a result of the drug or chemical in question."
  • "A board-certified or board-eligible OB/GYN to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to treat complications related to abortion drugs prescribed or administered." 
  • "A written contract with the OB/GYN guaranteeing that the OB/GYN will personally treat all those requiring surgical intervention and assess each patient individually, and shall not, as a matter of course, refer all patients to the emergency room or other facilities or physicians unless the patient is experience an immediately life-threatening complication."

Planned Parenthood Great Plains and Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region released a statement that said:

"It is extremely troubling that the Court would allow a regulation, that it found 'has virtually no benefit,' to deny women access to safe, legal abortion. Even though the Court found that complications from medication abortion are 'rare,' and 'strongly suspect[ed] that this requirement has been imposed specifically because DHSS is aware that it is difficult for abortion providers to comply with it, and simply constitutes a backdoor effort to require admitting privileges in an attempt to avoid (or ignore) 'Hellersted,' the Court still has declined to stop this senseless regulation." 

A former nurse and abortion rights opponent, Bonnie Lee, said she is pleased with the ruling.

"They've tried to make it about abortion," she said. "These laws do not say anything about 'yes' or 'no' about having abortion. It says if a woman has an abortion she has a right to be just as safe as every other woman."  

The Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia already offers surgical abortions, and will continue to do so.
In her ruling, the judge noted that Planned Parenthood argued women prefer medication abortions.
"Women are not necessarily entitled access to the procedure that they prefer," Phillips wrote.

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