Planned Parenthood gets Columbia license, files lawsuit against state

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COLUMBIA - Planned Parenthood announced Tuesday it has received its license for medication and surgical abortion services at the Columbia Health Center and has begun making appointments.

“Restoring abortion access in mid-Missouri is going to be life-changing for patients in the mid-Missouri and rural areas of the state,” said Bonyen Lee-Gilmore, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Great Plains. “For far too long now, patients who have been in need of safe, legal abortion services have faced hundreds of miles, two round trip drives, time off work, being forced further into poverty in order to access a constitutionally protected safe, legal, medical procedure.”

Planned Parenthood Great Plains also filed a joint lawsuit Tuesday against the state of Missouri hoping to block Senate Bill 5 before it goes into effect on October 24. Planned Parenthood of St. Louis and the ACLU of Missouri are part of the suit.

Senate Bill 5 was passed during a special session this summer. It adds regulations to abortion laws in the state, which Planned Parenthood says severely restrict access to safe and legal abortions for Missourians.

“The provision that Planned Parenthood and the ACLU are challenging has to do with a mandate that would require the abortion provider be the same consenting physician 72 hours before the procedure,” Lee-Gilmore said.

She said, currently, a qualified health care professional in the state of Missouri, like a nurse practitioner, can go through the informed consent process with the patient. That patient then must wait 72 hours before accessing an abortion.

The lawsuit challenges both the 72-hour waiting period and the requirement that the providing physician secures the consent three days beforehand.

Bonnie Lee, a retired nurse and a member of abortion rights opponent group 40 Days for Life, said the provision Planned Parenthood is fighting is standard practice.

“If you have a surgery, even if you’re referred by another doctor to the surgeon, you see that surgeon,” Lee said. “That surgeon tells you what he’s going to do, tells you about the risk, tells you about what’s going to take place and how they’re going to address different things, because he’s the one doing the surgery."

Lee said she feels Senate Bill 5 makes it safer for women.

“Look at one thing in SB 5 and tell me what’s not for the safety of women. Nowhere does it say they can’t have an abortion, I don’t agree with it, I think someday it will not be legal in our country, but currently it is,” she said. “SB 5 are safety laws that prevent women from being exploited by a business making profit off of their abortions.”

Lee-Gilmore said the laws in Senate Bill 5 are medically unnecessary and unconstitutional.

“They provide no benefit to patients in Missouri,” she said. “They are designed to throw road blocks to abortion access in the state and they’re designed to make abortion inaccessible all together, so we stand by our patients’ constitutional rights to access safe, legal abortion services.”

Renee Maxwell, a member of the Guild of Silly Heathens, a group of abortion right supporters, was outside Planned Parenthood Tuesday afternoon for the group’s counter protest against abortion rights opponents. She said she’s confident Planned Parenthood Great Plains will succeed with its lawsuit.

“I think over and over again the courts have shown that these trap laws are unconstitutional, this is just another trap law and it’s just more pandering from the Missouri state legislature to their base, but abortion is legal and abortion is health care and women deserve to have a right to abortion services,” Maxwell said.

Lee-Gilmore said the lawsuit requests a restraining order, blocking Senate Bill 5 before it goes into effect on Oct. 24.