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Judge rejects Planned Parenthood attempts to stall pro-life Missouri law

by | Oct 24, 2017

By Dave Andrusko

Judge S. Margene Burnett

Judge S. Margene Burnett

In a huge victory Monday for pro-lifers in Missouri, Jackson County Circuit Court Judge S. Margene Burnett denied the request of two Planned Parenthood affiliates and two abortionists for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction of portions of Missouri’s new pro-life law, SB 5, passed during a special session called by Gov. Eric Greitens.

In addition, as KCUR’s Dan Margolies explained,

The plaintiffs also asked the court to rule on the overall constitutionality of Senate Bill 5, said Jesse Lawder, a spokesman for Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis affiliate, but the court did not issue any opinion on that on Monday.

With nothing stopping Senate Bill 5, the newest abortion law in Missouri is set to take effect on Tuesday.

As NRL News Today has explained, the specific part of SB 5 at issue before Judge Burnett is the requirement that the abortionist himself meet with the woman three days before she undergoes the abortion, should she go forward. (For shorthand purposes, it was described as the “same-physician requirement.”) He is 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.

The state maintained that meeting with the abortionist–as opposed to merely “qualified professionals”–was important to continuity of care. The plaintiffs argued the provision was both unnecessary and an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to abort.

Judge Burnett upheld the provision in a nine-page, closely reasoned opinion. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jack Suntrup explained

Burnett wrote that on the plaintiffs’ three main points — that the provision impedes the rights of women, that it was drafted unconstitutionally and that it is vague and contradictory — that there was not “sufficient showing that Plaintiffs will succeed on the merits of these particular claims.”

Specifically, in her opinion Judge Burnett wrote

The Court declines to reach the conclusion that the recent same-physician requirement, at best a moderate modification of the informed consent restraints already in place, is unconstitutional.

But the first-among-equal contentions was the “cumulative effect” argument. Planned Parenthood maintained, as Burnett observed,

that this small change does, when taken with the cumulative effect of the numerous restrictions enacted in past eight years, create a tipping point due to the scarcity of providers.

But Burnett’s answer was that

SB 5 is not what created a provider scarcity or the existing 72-hour waiting period or the lengthy amount of material which must be conveyed so that a person’s consent is considered informed. The Court finds that this one change to R.S.Mo. §188.027.6 would not place a substantial obstacle in a woman’s decision to obtain an abortion.

An emphasis in Suntrup’s story, as noted, was that SB 5 goes into effect today. The other provisions include, according to Missouri Right to Life

  • “Ensuring that our top law enforcement officer, the Attorney General, has equal jurisdiction with a local prosecutor. This is needed when a local prosecutor is pro-abortion and refuses to uphold the laws when an abortion clinic or abortionist breaks the law.”
  • “Annual on-site unannounced abortion clinic inspections to make sure abortion clinics are following the law.”
  • “Whistleblower protections for employees of abortion clinics who see law after law being broken inside these abortion clinics and want to report it, but are afraid of the repercussions by the abortionists.”
  • “Protection for pregnancy resource centers and faith communities not to be forced to participate in abortions.”

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley’s office defended the law in court. Hawley told reporters he was pleased with Judge Burnett’s ruling.

“SB5 enacts sensible regulations that protect the health of women in Missouri and we will continue to vigorously defend these,” he said.

Categories: Judicial