A federal appeals court has cleared the way for the State of Missouri to once again enforce basic health and safety standards for abortion clinics. A three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has revoked an injunction issued by U.S. District Court Judge Howard Sachs in April of last year forbidding enforcement of certain abortion clinic regulations.
Judge Sachs had ruled that two provisions in Missouri law were unconstitutional because they were abridging “the abortion rights of Missouri women in irreparable fashion.” One requires that facilities providing surgical abortions must meet the same health and safety standards as other outpatient surgical centers. The second provision stipulates that doctors performing abortions must have surgical privileges in at least one licensed hospital in the community.
Judge Sachs, who has a record as an ultraliberal activist judge, based his decision on a major U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2016 known as Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. In that case, the High Court stuck down a Texas law that was patterned after Missouri’s surgicenter and hospital privileges requirements. The preliminary injunction issued by Sachs reads like a political manifesto on the supposed virtues of the abortion industry.
Missouri’s health and safety standards for abortion clinics have been a major obstacle to Planned Parenthood’s efforts to expand their abortion empire in Missouri. Most Planned Parenthood facilities across the state are designed as private physician offices, and lack the professional staffing or equipment to ensure medical safeguards for women undergoing abortions.
The requirement that abortionists have nearby hospital privileges is designed to ensure continuity of care by an obstetric specialist should complications occur during an abortion procedure. This poses a major hindrance to Planned Parenthood’s business model, in which itinerant abortionists travel from one community to another killing preborn children in assembly-line fashion. These fly-by, drive-by abortionists have absolutely no physician-patient relationship with the women on whom they perform abortions.
As a result of Missouri’s ambulatory surgical center requirements, Planned Parenthood has only been able to operate one abortion clinic in the state in recent years on a continuing basis–the Reproductive Health Services clinic based in the Central West End of St. Louis City. However, following the action by Judge Sachs to enjoin enforcement of the law, Planned Parenthood chapters announced plans to re-open abortion clinics in Columbia and Kansas City, and to open new abortion clinics in Springfield and Joplin.
The Supreme Court prescribed in the Hellerstedt decision that federal courts must “consider the burdens a law imposes on abortion access together with the benefits those laws confer.” The 8th Circuit panel invalidated the injunction issued by Judge Sachs because they said he had failed to review factual findings to weigh the asserted benefits of Missouri’s law against the burdens it allegedly confers.
The 8th Circuit opinion also includes favorable language calling on the District Court to evaluate the good faith purposes of Missouri’s efforts to provide for “the public health, safety, and morals.” The 8th Circuit judges explicitly stated that “the hospital relationship requirement may be appropriate given the state’s legitimate interest in seeing to it that abortion, like any other medical procedure, is performed under circumstances that insure maximum safety for the patient.”
Dr. Randall Williams, the Director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, announced last week that DHSS will immediately resume enforcing Missouri’s health and safety regulations for abortion clinics. “As a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist for 30 years, my commitment…is to act in good faith to…protect the health and safety of all women in Missouri, including those who seek abortions.”
Spokesmen for Planned Parenthood have bemoaned the latest ruling, saying that it will have an adverse impact on the availability of “reproductive health services” in the state. Planned Parenthood officials say they may have to suspend providing abortions at the Columbia clinic, may be unable to regain their license for the Kansas City clinic, and will have to delay plans to set up their grisly operations in Springfield and Joplin.
In the meantime, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley has pledged to “continue to vigorously defend Missouri’s commonsense regulations that protect women’s health and safety.”