After securing a court order blocking two Missouri abortion restrictions, Planned Parenthood now wants the licensing process for abortion facilities speeded up – a proposal opposed by the state.
Planned Parenthood is proposing a 45-day period for Missouri to complete the licensing process for its clinics in Kansas City and Columbia, a deadline the state calls artificial.
The organization also wants the court to impose a 60-day timeframe for its Joplin and Springfield clinics. Neither has applied for a license to perform abortions but both plan to do so.
In court documents, Planned Parenthood says the licensing process “has historically been unpredictable and subject to political pressure and delays.”
It points to Missouri’s attempt in 2015 to terminate the license of its Columbia clinic without going through normal legal steps – a move later ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge.
Planned Parenthood’s proposals come nearly two weeks after U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs blocked restrictions Missouri imposed in 2007 that require abortion doctors to have hospital admitting privileges and require abortion clinics to have “facilities suitable for significant surgery.” The latter include regulations governing corridor width, door width and elevator size.
Similar restrictions in Texas were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court last year.
In granting Planned Parenthood’s request for a preliminary injunction, Sachs asked both sides to come up with an order that would avoid striking down general health and safety requirements in the laws he blocked.
Missouri argues, however, that the timelines Planned Parenthood is proposing are outside the scope of those laws.
“In fact,” it says in court documents, “such deadlines would effectively grant abortion facilities preferential treatment over the numerous other facilities that are subject to licensing and inspection in the State, by requiring the Department (of Health and Senior Services) to direct its limited resources to inspecting abortion facilities on a more expedited basis than other facilities.”
Planned Parenthood applied for a license for its Columbia facility in June 2016 and for its Kansas City facility a month later. It says the state conducted comprehensive reviews of the facilities and found they met the state’s requirements for ambulatory surgery centers.
Both applications, however, were held up by the Missouri restrictions that Sachs blocked.
Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley has said he intends to appeal Sachs’ preliminary injunction.
In his decision, Sachs found that Planned Parenthood was very likely to succeed on the merits of its claim that the restrictions are unconstitutional and cause “irreparable harm” to its patients.
Dan Margolies is KCUR’s health editor. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.