Planned Parenthood, ACLU file lawsuit against Senate bill establishing new standards for abortions

Several Planned Parenthood branches and the ACLU of Missouri have filed a lawsuit against a Senate bill that establishes new standards for abortion facilities.

The lawsuit, filed in state court Oct. 10 by Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and the ACLU of Missouri, asks the court to block SB 5, noting that it "severely restricts access to safe, legal abortion for Missourians."

The suit targets the state's 72-hour waiting period, which they noted will result in "extreme delays" of three or more weeks for women in areas such as Springfield, Mo., which currently does not offer abortions. The Senate bill requires the same physician who will provide the abortion to also give information on the medical risks at least 72 hours earlier.

In the past several weeks, Planned Parenthood announced that it received licenses to perform abortions in Kansas City and Columbia, Mo., and would like to expand abortion services to Springfield and Joplin, Mo.

Passed during a special session this summer, SB 5 requires abortion clinics to develop plans for managing medical emergencies, requires all fetal tissue (not just a representative sample) from abortion to be sent for pathology exam, provides whistleblower protections for employees involved with abortion, and prohibits abortion clinic workers from instructing first-responders not to follow protocol when responding to an emergency at an abortion clinic.

The measure also pre-empts local governments from enacting ordinances that adversely affect legal rights of individuals based on their views of abortion, requires abortion clinics to be inspected annually and gives the Missouri attorney general greater authority to enforce Missouri's abortion laws.

Earlier this month, the Department of Health and Senior Services said it would file emergency rules to establish new standards for abortion facilities and hospitals in how they deal with complications that arise from performing abortions. Citing SB 5, the health department said it would require abortion doctors to have an OB/GYN or group of OB/GYNs on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to treat any complications related to the prescription or administration of abortion-inducing drugs.

"Ensuring the safety of all patients is always our department's foremost concern," said health department director Dr. Randall Williams, who also is an OB/GYN. "Therefore, the objective of our complication plan regulations is protecting the health and safety of patients by re-emphasizing the importance of the physician-patient relationship. Our proposed regulations provide for continuity of care and ensure communication among the physician who induced the abortion and subsequent health care providers involved in treating the patient's complication."

According to Danco Laboratories, which manufactures Mifeprex (abortion drug mifepristone), approximately 3 percent of women who take Mifeprex will require surgical intervention, stemming from reasons including ongoing pregnancy, heavy bleeding, incomplete expulsion or other reasons.

A 2015 study published by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also noted that the highest rate of complications were from medication-induced abortions, approximately 5 percent.

The health department memo also addressed another change made by SB 5, which will require an abortion facility license for any place where any number of abortions are performed or induced — with the exception of hospitals. Previously, the law allowed physicians to perform four or fewer abortions without an abortion facility license. 

>> Respect Life Month

• The annual archdiocesan Respect Life Convention will take place Sunday, Oct. 22, at the St. Charles Convention Center. John Foppe, executive director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul-St. Louis Council, will be the keynote speaker. Exhibits open at 9 a.m., followed by Mass at 9:30. Exhibits and afternoon workshops are free. To purchase tickets for the luncheon and keynote speaker, contact the Respect Life Apostolate at (314) 792-7555 or register online at www.stlouisreview.com/jBc.

• The Helpers of God's Precious Infants Mass and prayer vigil at Planned Parenthood will take place Saturday, Oct. 21. It begins with 8 a.m. Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, followed by exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, and a Rosary prayer procession to Planned Parenthood. Those unable to participate in the procession are invited to remain at the cathedral basilica for eucharistic adoration.

• The LifeLine Coalition is a group of Catholic social service agencies and pro-life caregivers committed to helping women experiencing crisis pregnancies through: increasing awareness and availability of pregnancy assistance services; generating new revenue for caregivers; and expanding services to pregnant women. Contribute to the Lifeline Coalition at www.stlouisreview.com/b91; or checks should be made payable to LifeLine Coalition, Respect Life Apostolate, Mail Stop 34001, P.O. Box 953745, St. Louis, MO 63195-3745

• Archbishop Robert J. Carlson established the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Fund in 2009. The fund relieves the burdens of expectant parents and parents who have recently given birth under difficult circumstances. Contribute to the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Fund at www.stlouisreview.com/b9r; or checks should be made payable to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Fund, Respect Life Apostolate, Mail Stop 340012, P.O. Box 953745, St. Louis, MO 63195-3745. 

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