Two Missouri abortion providers have dropped lawsuits against the state of Missouri
and agreed to comply with state health and safety requirements for their operations.
Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, which operates clinics in Columbia
and Kansas City, and Dr. Allen Palmer, who operates an abortion clinic in St. Louis
County, have reached a settlement agreement with the Missouri Department of Health
and Senior Services.
Planned Parenthood and Dr. Palmer had filed suit against a law adopted by the Missouri
Legislature in 2007 which broadened the scope of Missouri's ambulatory surgical
center licensing law. The original law, sponsored by yours truly in 1986, established
health and safety regulations for outpatient surgery centers "operated primarily
for the purpose of performing surgical procedures," including abortion clinics.
That law brought within its jurisdiction the Reproductive Health Services abortion
clinic now operated by Planned Parenthood in St. Louis.
The Legislature amended the surgicenter licensing law in 2007 to include any facility
where second or third trimester abortions are "performed or induced," or any facility
where five or more first trimester abortions are "performed or induced" per month.
Those changes brought under the law's regulation the abortion clinic operated by
Dr. Palmer in Bridgeton out of his private medical office, and the Planned Parenthood
Columbia clinic where abortions have been offered one day a week. The law also encompassed
the Brous Medical Center in Kansas City operated by Planned Parenthood, where medication
abortions (RU-486) are induced.
Planned Parenthood and Dr. Palmer filed suit in federal court claiming that the
law imposed a "substantial obstacle on access to abortion" and that the state regulations
were not reasonably related to patient health and safety. U.S. District Court Judge Ortrie Smith
ruled that he was not persuaded that there was no medical benefit to
the state law. But he agreed with the plaintiffs that the application of some physical
requirements of the state regulations could be constitutionally troublesome.
Judge Smith instructed the Department of Health and Senior Services to negotiate
with Planned Parenthood and Dr. Palmer to see if an agreement could be reached on
how their clinics could comply with the law through waivers from some physical facility
requirements. After many months of negotiations, the parties reached a settlement
in May of this year which was never formally publicized.
The Missouri Family Policy
Council recently obtained a copy of the settlement agreements.
Under the settlement, Planned Parenthood and Dr. Palmer agreed to dismiss all their
constitutional and legal challenges to the law "in their entirety" and accept compliance
with the law. A key provision of the law stipulates that physicians performing or
inducing abortions in an abortion clinic must have surgical privileges at a hospital
in the community, "thus providing assurance to the public that patients treated
in the center shall receive continuity of care should the services of a hospital
The law also requires that "continuous physician services or registered
professional nursing services are provided whenever a patient is in the facility."
These provisions were designed to address the problem of abortionists hopping from
one abortion clinic to another who have no medical connection or relationship with
any local health care provider. Many abortion clinics are served by abortionists
who come in periodically from out of town, perform abortions in assembly-line fashion,
and then head back out of town before some patients have even been discharged from
Planned Parenthood had argued that the law should not apply to the administration
Yet the Legislature clearly intended to include such facilities when
it used the language "performing OR inducing." Planned Parenthood has now agreed
that continuous physician or nursing services will be provided whenever an abortion
patient is in the Brous Center. They have further agreed that physicians dispensing
RU-486 will have medical privileges at Menorah Medical Center or Research Medical
Center in Kansas City.
While both Planned Parenthood and Dr. Palmer have agreed to make modifications to
their facilities in Columbia and St. Louis, the Department of Health has granted
them a waiver from certain physical requirements. The State agreed to pay attorney's
fees of $145,000 to Planned Parenthood and $190,000 to Dr. Palmer in return for
their dismissal of challenges to the law and their consent to compliance with the
The net effect of the settlement on the Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia is
unclear. Abortions have not been performed at that facility since mid-August.
Parenthood officials have claimed the clinic is dealing with "scheduling" issues,
and have acknowledged problems with staffing in the past. The suspension of abortion
services at Columbia came on the heels of this settlement, as well as a new state
law strengthening informed consent requirements. A qualified professional must
now meet with a women 24 hours before the abortion procedure to provide her with
comprehensive information about the humanity of the unborn child and alternatives
to the abortion procedure. The Columbia clinic has been the site of a vigorous sustained
community prayer effort and sidewalk ministry led by pro-life leaders like
The net effect of the settlement on Dr. Palmer's abortion clinic in north St. Louis
County is clear. Under the settlement, Palmer agrees that the Department of Health
will not transfer his abortion facility license to any other person. Should he transfer
ownership of his practice to any other party, the terms of the settlement would
not apply to them. This pretty much assures that Palmer's abortion clinic will shut
down when he retires, which some believe may not be that far removed.
We commend the Missouri Legislature for their actions in 2007 to ensure that health
and safety standards for outpatient surgicenters apply to all abortion clinics in
our state. We commend Deputy Attorney General Joe Dandurand
and Assistant Attorney
General Emily Dodge for their work in defending the new state law and bringing all
Missouri abortion clinics into compliance.