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New pro-life law goes into effect, despite attempts by Planned Parenthood to block enforcement

As a judge denied Planned Parenthood's request to block a portion of Senate Bill 5, demonstrations were held in front of five Planned Parenthood locations Oct. 24 to shine light on Missouri's newest pro-life law, which went into effect the same day.

Jackson County Circuit Court Judge S. Margene Burnett denied a request by several Planned Parenthood branches and the ACLU of Missouri for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction of parts of SB 5. The lawsuit, filed Oct. 10, targeted the state's 72-hour waiting period, which they noted will result in "extreme delays" of three or more weeks for women in areas not close to an abortion clinic. The law requires the same physician who will provide the abortion to also give information on the medical risks at least 72 hours earlier.

Pro-life advocates held press conferences Oct. 24 outside of Planned Parenthood locations in St. Louis, Columbia, Kansas City, Springfield and Joplin. Planned Parenthood has resumed offering abortions in Kansas City and Columbia, and has said it would seek to resume abortions in Springfield and Joplin. Speakers at the St. Louis press conference included Sens. Paul Wieland and Bill Eigel, Pam Fichter of Missouri Right to Life, Reagan Barklage of Students for Life of America, and Stacy Washington of radio talk show Stacy on the Right.

At the event, pro-life advocates drew attention to the 67 ambulance visits to Planned Parenthood in St. Louis since 2009. Participants dressed in all white to symbolize the number of ambulance calls to the facility. Karen Nolkemper, executive director of the archdiocesan Respect Life Apostolate, said that while there are many unknowns about the calls — including the circumstances that bring women there and what complications they might have experienced — pro-life laws such as SB 5 and witnessing outside of abortion clinics will shine a light on the darkness of abortion.

"Health care is life-affirming," she said. "Health care promotes physical and mental well-being. Health care restores. Abortion is and does none of those things."

Citing the more than 58 million abortions since the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision, abortion clinics such as Planned Parenthood "lie about the life of the unborn child," said Pam Fichter, eastern region chairman of Missouri Right to Life. "They lie about whether abortions are safe for women. We are here in white to represent the truth. Women deserve better. Babies deserve better. Babies deserve to live. Their mothers deserve to be treated with the utmost respect and care that our medical facilities are required to give."

Passed by the Missouri legislature in 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.

Calling abortion a "time-sensitive procedure," Planned Parenthood in a statement said that SB 5 will cause delays, meaning that some people won't be able to access abortion at all.

"This law does not improve the safety and well-being of women in Missouri seeking abortion," said Mary Kogut, president and CEO of Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region. "Rather, it is part of a broader agenda to ban safe, legal abortion and runs counter to the predominate medical consensus of physicians and the Missouri Section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. We will continue to fight this and any bill that allows politicians to stand in the way of a woman's ability to make personal medical decisions that are best for her health and well-being." 

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