JEFFERSON CITY — A federal appeals court ruling has opened the door for Planned Parenthood to pursue abortion licenses in more areas of Missouri.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday lifted a temporary stay that had allowed the state to continue enforcing certain abortion requirements while appealing a lower court's ruling that the requirements infringed on women's abortion rights. The appeals court didn't explain its decision.
The order means Planned Parenthood can continue to pursue licenses to provide abortion services in Joplin, Springfield and Columbia. Only the group's clinics in Kansas City and St. Louis currently have abortion licenses, and the earlier stay had made the future of licenses at the other clinics uncertain.
"By allowing us to continue expanding health care access, this lets us ensure women in our state can get the care they need closer to their own community," Mary Kogut, president and CEO of Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, said in a news release. "We will continue working with the state to obtain licenses in Springfield and Joplin so we can provide care to patients in southwest Missouri as soon as possible."
Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, whose office is responsible for defending state laws, said he was "extremely disappointed" with the decision.
"My office will continue to fight for common sense regulations that protect the health and well-being of Missouri women," Hawley said in a statement.
The state is appealing an April district court ruling that barred Missouri from enforcing regulations requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and requiring clinics to meet hospital-like standards for outpatient surgery.
The U.S. Supreme Court in last year threw out similar Texas rules that sharply reduced the number of abortion clinics there, rejecting the state's claims that its 2013 law and follow-up regulations were needed to safeguard women's health.
After U.S. District Judge Howard F. Sachs blocked those requirements in Missouri, Planned Parenthood sought licenses to provide services in Kansas City, Joplin, Springfield and Columbia. The Kansas City clinic received a license but the temporary stay initially issued by the federal appeals court had delayed licenses for the other clinics.