By Dave Andrusko
Give Planned Parenthood credit. They keep testing Missouri’s law requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at a local hospital and they keep getting shot down.
On Friday Rudi Keller of the Columbia Daily Tribune reported that Obama appointee U.S. District Judge Brian Wimes “refused to issue a preliminary injunction that would have allowed Planned Parenthood to resume offering abortions in Columbia.” The ruling “was in response to a third request for an injunction, filed after the clinic was notified in December that it had met every licensing requirement except the hospital privileges rule.”
Judge Wimes found, according to Keller, “that attorneys for Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood Great Plains had not shown that regulations requiring abortion providers have hospital privileges are a ‘substantial obstacle’ in the path of women seeking an abortion.”
As Keller observed, there are various criteria for determining whether to grant a preliminary injunction, including “irreparable harm” and a likelihood of winning a lawsuit. Judge Wimes zeroed in on the latter since that has been “most important factor” for the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Planned Parenthood based its lawsuit on a litany of complaints (all vigorously contested by the state of Missouri), including an inability to find hospitals willing to give abortionists admitting privileges, overcrowding, and longer waiting times.
Judge Wimes wasn’t buying any of it:
In particular, Plaintiffs do not present evidence of attempts to find physicians with hospital privileges willing to provide abortion services at the Columbia Facility, or evidence of fewer doctors, longer wait times, and increased crowding at RHS [Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood] in St. Louis. …
“In sum, evidence of increased driving distance relative to the privileges requirement standing alone, for purposes of the motion for preliminary injunction, is not sufficient, even when weighed against the assertions of benefits conferred by the privileges requirement, to demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits.”
The impact of Judge Wimes’ ruling means that Missouri will have only one clinic offering abortion “services”: Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s office has vigorously defended the law. In court filing last January, Schmitt argued that the complication rate from abortions in Missouri “is almost double the national complication rate of 2.1 percent predicted by Plaintiffs’” and then cited a long history of health and safety violations at the Planned Parenthood clinic at Columbia.
He went to detail what Schmitt described as “the four layers, so to speak, of abortion complications” and how the law did not apply just to one abortion clinic.
Fourth, there are the abortion complications that would have occurred but did not, because since 2007 Missouri has imposed reasonable regulations on abortion facilities designed to promote women’s health and safety. In claiming that the St. Louis facility has a strong safety record (which it does not), Plaintiffs overlook that, for the entire relevant time period, the St. Louis facility complied with both the ASC requirements and the hospital-privileges requirement that have been challenged in this case. Even more complications, and more severe complications, would undoubtedly have occurred if abortion facilities had been radically deregulated as Plaintiffs wish.
This point is especially important because the hospital-privileges requirement and other regulations are not directed only to Plaintiffs, or only to the Columbia facility. Rather, they are statewide requirements that prevent abuses and promote safety not just at Plaintiffs’ facilities, but also for “the shoddiest operators” and “the worst providers” [a quote from a Chicago Tribune story].