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Planned Parenthood returns to court in effort to stop hospital privileges law

Focus remains onclinic in Columbia

Planned Parenthood has returned to court in an effort to prohibit enforcement of a state law that requires abortion doctors to have local hospital privileges.

In December, Planned Parenthood Great Plains filed for a preliminary injunction. It’s the second time in almost four months the abortion provider asked the court to stop the regulation from being enforced.

Planned Parenthood noted in its court filing that it is focusing is on the Columbia clinic, whose abortion license expired in October. The injunction, Planned Parenthood said, would “stop the ongoing irreparable harm to women in the Columbia area who, since October, are being forced to travel long distances — twice — to seek an abortion at Missouri’s only remaining abortion facility, in St. Louis.”

Missouri’s new Attorney General Eric Schmitt, sworn in Jan. 3, has until Jan. 7 to respond to the latest filing by Planned Parenthood.

At an unannounced inspection of the Columbia Planned Parenthood in September, the state health department discovered the facility had an abortion machine with what appeared to be dried blood and mold.

That finding, as well as other deficiencies detailed in a report from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, eventually led to an expiration of facility’s abortion license Oct. 2.

In October, federal Judge Brian Wimes declined to halt a Missouri law requiring abortion doctors to have local hospital privileges. Wimes’ decision followed a previous ruling by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals that ended a preliminary injunction blocking the Missouri rules, sending the case back to the lower court.

Enacted in 2005, the Missouri law requires doctors to have hospital privileges within 30 miles of where the abortions are performed. Pro-life advocates said the provision offers women undergoing an abortion quick admittance to a hospital in the event that emergency medical attention is needed.

Planned Parenthood in Columbia is without a doctor with hospital privileges to perform abortions. At this point, Planned Parenthood in St. Louis is the only remaining abortion provider in Missouri. The Columbia facility remains open, providing non-abortion-related services.

Additionally, Dr. Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, late last year decided that the state should be enforcing a longstanding rule requiring a pelvic exam before a woman can obtain a drug-induced abortion. The regulation apparently had not been enforced under previous administrations.

The regulation has been around in different forms since the mid-1980s. The current regulation states that:

“A written medical history shall be obtained for each patient. A health assessment including a pelvic examination shall be performed. Pregnancy shall be confirmed by clinical evidence and laboratory tests. This information shall be used in determining the duration of gestation, identifying pre-existing medical or other complications, and detecting any factors which could influence the choice of the procedure, anesthesia, or preoperative and postoperative management. If the physician determines gestation is beyond the first trimester, an ultrasound examination shall be performed and results shall be recorded in the patient’s medical record.”

Last year, the state health department also developed a regulation that requires abortion clinics to have a “complication plan,” which includes that a board-certified or board-eligible OB/GYN is on call and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to treat complications related to abortion drugs prescribed or administered by the physician.

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