Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking a temporary injunction against a portion of a new law passed this summer that tightens abortion regulations in Missouri.
During a special session called this summer by Gov. Eric Greitens, lawmakers approved a bill that gave the attorney general new powers to prosecute people who violate abortion laws and enacted several new requirements, such as annual state health department inspections of clinics and approval of clinics' plans for handling complications during medication-induced abortions.
The lawsuit, filed in Jackson County Circuit Court, asks for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to block the law from going into effect on Oct. 24. It also asks for a finding that the law is unconstitutional.
The lawsuit focuses on a requirement that the doctor who will perform the abortion must give specific information about the procedure to a woman at least 72 hours before the abortion. Currently, doctors, nurses, physicians' assistants, licensed counselors and others can provide women with information about their options, medical procedures and the risks.
The new requirement would force women to make two trips to the clinic — with some having to drive hundreds of miles — while providing the same information they receive under current procedures, according to the lawsuit. A statement from the organizations noted women in Springfield, for example, would have to make two round trips of 300 to 400 miles rather than making an initial visit to a local health center.
The organizations noted the state already requires women to make two separate appointments 72 hours apart before having an abortion. Meeting both 72-hour requirements could prevent some women from having an abortion for weeks, the organizations argue, making access to abortion especially difficult for poor, young and rural women as well as women of color.
"We all want women to have the information and support they need to make a decision about a pregnancy," said Aaron Samulcek, interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Great Plains. "Planned Parenthood health centers provide every woman with accurate information, counseling and support to make personal medical decisions that are best for her health and well-being. This law is political interference at its worst."
Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region CEO and president Mary Kogut called the new law "part of a broader effort to ban safe, legal abortion."
The national American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Missouri are also representing two physicians, Drs. David L. Eisenberg and Colleen P. McNicholas, arguing the law also imposes a burden that some physicians will not be able to meet.
Attorney General Josh Hawley's office was reviewing the lawsuit Tuesday, said his spokeswoman, Loree Anne Paradise.
"(The new law) enacts sensible regulations that protect the health of women in Missouri and it is our duty and privilege to vigorously defend them," Paradise said.