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Judge hears PPFA challenge to a portion of Missouri’s pro-life SB 5

by | Oct 19, 2017

By Dave Andrusko

Missouri First Assistant Attorney General D. John Sauer

Missouri First Assistant Attorney General John Sauer

On Wednesday Judge S. Margene Burnett heard the latest Planned Parenthood challenge to a component of Missouri’s SB 5, this time the requirement that the abortionist himself meet with the woman three days before she undergoes the abortion. The law was part of a packet of pro-life initiatives passed at a special session called by Gov. Eric Greitens. Since the law is set to take effect October 24, undoubtedly Judge Burnett will issue her ruling before then.

Dan Margolies, KCUR’s health editor, explained that

Planned Parenthood says the requirement imposes an “undue burden” on patients, who may have to schedule more than one meeting if, for whatever reason, the abortion physician can’t perform the procedure. That could be especially burdensome for women who have to travel great distances to meet with their abortion physician, Planned Parenthood attorney Diana Salgado told Judge S. Margene Burnett on Wednesday.

Missouri First Assistant Attorney General D. John Sauer countered by telling the Jackson County judge the law provides “very significant benefits,” including “continuity of care” and “responsible participation of the patient in her own medical care,” according to Margolies.

Sauer said the abortionist is uniquely qualified to provide the required information; it’s “standard medical practice.”

This is exactly what Missouri Sen. Bob Onder, who supported the bill and who is a physician, had said previously: “I think it’s universal medical practice that we meet the surgeon that’s going to do the surgical procedure and we discuss the risks and the benefits of it and the alternatives to the procedure,” he told Andy Marso of the Kansas City Star .

Prior to the law’s passage, an abortion-minded women could meet with any “qualified professional” — including a physician assistant, licensed social worker or psychologist — to talk about the potential immediate and long-term medical risks to her. Those include among other risks infection, hemorrhage, cervical tear or uterine perforation, harm to subsequent pregnancies, and adverse psychological effects.

As noted by Margolies, the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis was until recently the only one in the state offering surgical abortions. (The Planned Parenthood clinic in midtown Kansas City only provides chemical abortions.)

“The Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia recently obtained a license to perform surgical abortions, and two other Planned Parenthood clinics, in Springfield and Joplin, are in the process of seeking abortion licenses,” Margolies wrote.

What makes this challenge, brought by Planned Parenthood Great Plains, Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, and the ACLU of Missouri, different from the many others is that it is based on protections they say are found in the Missouri Constitution.

The plaintiffs maintain that “by imposing significant burdens on patient care such that, for whole categories of patients, abortion care would no longer be available, and for virtually all other abortion patients, it would be either unavailable or so delayed that they would experience increased medical risk and financial costs,” the new law violates the Missouri Constitution’s due process guarantees.

In court filings the state said there is no independent right to abortion on demand in the Missouri Constitution.

“No court has ever held that the Missouri Constitution guarantees a right to abortion on demand, and this Court need not take such a dramatic step,” Missouri wrote in court filings.

Categories: Judicial