By Dave Andrusko
On November 9, when last we visited Planned Parenthood’s court challenge to what it called Missouri’s “medication [chemical] abortion complication plan,” U.S. District Judge Beth Phillips had just denied Planned Parenthood’s request for a temporary restraining order. And because it did not win a TRO, the law went into effect the following day. As a result Planned Parenthood’s Columbia, Mo., clinic was and is no longer performing chemically-induced abortions .
This week Judge Phillips is hearing testimony in a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood Great Plains and Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri. They want the court not only to block enforcement of the requirement that abortion providers performing chemical abortions have two Ob-Gyns on call 24/7, but also other components of Missouri’s omnibus SB 5 law passed in 2017 in a special session called by the governor.
In a story written by Rudi Keller of the Columbia Tribune we learn (not surprisingly) that
Colleen McNicholas, the Washington University obstetrician-gynecologist who now handles surgical abortions in Columbia, testified that major complications are “incredibly rare” and can be handled by an emergency room prepared to deal with a miscarriage.
But these are “commonsense regulations designed to protect the health and safety of women,” insisted Attorney General Josh Hawley. “My office will continue to defend these regulations.”
Today Dr. Randall Williams and Dr. Tumulesh Solanky are testifying for the state.
In his story written last November, Keller said Judge Phillips concluded, there was no showing that the requirement “created a burden for women seeking medication abortions.”
“There is no evidence regarding the number of women who will be affected, or how they will be affected,” Phillips wrote. “In addition, as discussed above there is no current evidence regarding the burden of complying with the regulation. Thus, regardless of the regulation’s benefits, Plaintiffs lack of proof on this issue precludes a finding that they are likely to prevail on the merits.”
Among the submissions to the court by the Attorney General’s office was “State Defendants’ Pre-Hearing Brief and Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction.”
In the 91-page long submission, there were many arguments explaining why Planned Parenthood’s challenge must fail. One key provision was that it did not meet the test established in the 1992 Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey Supreme Court case.
Under Casey, to be unconstitutional, a requirement must present what the High Court called a substantial obstacle to women seeking abortions “in a large fraction of the cases in which [the Regulation] is relevant.”
Missouri explained in great detail why in the case of chemical abortions the requirement for two Ob-Gyns is constitutional. That defense began by noting that “while Casey recognizes a constitutional right to abortion, it does not establish a constitutional right to medication abortion in particular. Rather, as the Supreme Court confirmed in Gonzales v. Carhart, the State may regulate, or even prohibit, a particular method of abortion, so long as ‘a commonly used and generally accepted method of abortion” remains available’”—in this instance, surgical abortions.
We will update you Monday on today’s testimony from experts called by the state of Missouri.