Planned Parenthood plans to expand abortion services soon
April 21--After formally prevailing in a lawsuit challenging state laws regulating abortion providers, a Planned Parenthood affiliate is ready to go forward with plans for a promised expansion of abortion services into Joplin.
U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs on Wednesday ruled in favor of Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood Great Plains in its suit challenging the medical necessity of two abortion regulations in Missouri, as he indicated he intended to do in a memo to all parties on April 4.
Jesse Lawder, vice president of marketing, communications and external relations for Planned Parenthood's St. Louis regional affiliate, said the organization plans to provide medically induced abortion services in Springfield and Joplin.
"We have some work yet to do, but we'd like to make these services available to members of the community as soon as possible," Lawder said in an email Thursday.
Just hours after Sachs formally ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood, state Attorney General Josh Hawley said on Twitter that he planned to appeal the decision.
Hawley called it the "wrong decision" in a pair of tweets sent Wednesday night.
"MO has obligation to ensure safety of women undergoing med procedures in state-licensed med facilities," his second tweet read. "That's what we will fight for."
Gov. Eric Greitens echoed Hawley's calls for an appeal in his own tweet.
"Missouri is a pro-life state," Greitens tweeted. "We will beat this on appeal and keep fighting every day to protect the innocent unborn."
Greitens, though, did not address the issues in question in the lawsuit. A Globe request for comment or clarification submitted to Greitens' press secretary, Parker Briden, was not returned Thursday.
Rep. Charlie Davis, R-Webb City, has previously told the Globe that the laws in question exist solely to "protect the women" who choose to have abortions, not to prevent the availability of abortion services.
"This has 100 percent to do with the safety and health and welfare of the mother if she chooses to have an abortion," Davis said when Sachs issued his memo indicating his intention to find in favor of Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood had challenged state laws that required doctors who perform abortions in Missouri to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles and held clinics where abortions are performed to the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers. Planned Parenthood had said the requirements are medically unnecessary.
"The abortion rights of Missouri women, guaranteed by constitutional rulings, are being denied on a daily basis, in irreparable fashion," Sachs wrote in his order.
Sachs repeatedly referenced a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court from 2016 that declared similar regulations in Texas unconstitutional, saying they placed an undue burden on women seeking legal abortions with no medical benefit.
Further, Sachs said, the lack of clinics that perform abortions in Missouri -- there is currently only one, in St. Louis -- could be not only burdensome but dangerous.
"A fall-off in professionally-handled abortions in a locale seems almost certain when there is no convenient place to go," he wrote. "In that sense, the hospital affiliation requirement probably creates health hazards for women."
Sachs said the presence of only one abortion provider in Missouri has put an undue burden on women seeking abortions in other parts of the state.
"At present, only St. Louis has an operating facility," he said. "Abortion clinics in Overland Park, Kansas, and Fayetteville, Arkansas, are used by some Missourians. Central Missouri lacks ready access to such facilities, and the Springfield-Joplin area is notably unserved."
Planned Parenthood had said in its initial complaint, filed on Nov. 30, 2016, that if its lawsuit succeeded, it planned to resume providing abortions at clinics in Columbia, and would begin providing abortions for the first time in Springfield and Joplin.
"Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the Saint Louis Region and its physicians would provide abortions at health centers located in Joplin and Springfield, Missouri, which currently offer family planning services, but cannot (perform abortions) because of the restrictions," the complaint stated.