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Abortion law block sought

Planned Parenthood is expected to file a lawsuit disputing the law’s legality
Friday, October 3, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:53 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 5, 2008

Planned Parenthood executives expect to request an injunction today to block Missouri’s new law requiring a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions.

In addition, Planned Parenthood officials expect lawyers to file a federal lawsuit in Jefferson City challenging the law after the Missouri Senate overrode Gov. Bob Holden’s veto of the measure last month.

“We will request the injunction at the same time the lawsuit will be filed,” said Paula Gianino, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region.

Peter Brownlie, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said lawyers had been working on the lawsuit as late as Thursday.

Brownlie said he is optimistic about the lawsuit’s success. “We’re pretty confident,” Brownlie said. “We think the law has defects.”

The new law has three major components:

  • Requiring a 24-hour waiting period between seeking a medical consultation and getting an abortion.
  • Requiring women to seek counseling by a physician that would address medical, physical and psychological risks to having an abortion.
  • Requiring abortion providers to have at least $500,000 in medical malpractice insurance.
  • Brownlie would not specify the details of the lawsuit but said it probably would challenge the first two items of the law.

    “We probably won’t address the malpractice part because many providers already have malpractice insurance,” Brownlie said.

    Rep. Susan C. Phillips, R-Kansas City, who sponsored the bill, defended the measure as a protection for women.

    “This is just good common sense,” Phillips said. “It gives women and their families time to digest the medical information.”

    When considering the injunction, the judge must determine whether the new law would cause “irreparable harm” when it takes effect Oct. 11, said Denise Lieberman, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri.

    Lieberman said the law would play a major role in limiting adequate abortion access to an elite few.

    “I think this legislation is going to affect poor women and rural women gravely,” she said. “Poor women and rural women would be extremely burdened to have to make multiple (medical) trips.”

    But Phillips said she believes the new law will help women , saying women now sometimes don’t see a doctor until they are sedated and on their way to having an abortion.

    “I believe that without the law we are irreparably harming women,” Phillips said.

    Brownlie said he would not elaborate further about the injunction until the lawsuit is filed in the U.S. District Court for Western Missouri in Jefferson City.

    Lieberman said Planned Parenthood could argue that Missouri’s new abortion law violates a woman’s constitutional right to privacy.

    “There is an inherent right to privacy, and under Roe v. Wade that includes a right to choose to have an abortion,” Lieberman said.

    The test that the federal court will likely use, Lieberman said, would be the “undue burden” test. In 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that the government cannot place an “undue burden” on women’s access to legal abortions. But the interpretation of an “undue burden” can shift with each case.

    Brownlie said the plaintiffs of the lawsuit would be Comprehensive Health, an affiliate of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, and Reproductive Health, an affiliate of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region. Comprehensive Health and Reproductive Health are separate corporations that perform the abortions.

    The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in February 1999 upheld a statute saying Planned Parenthood could continue to receive funding only if it was separated from abortion providers. A judge’s ruling officially ended state funding of Planned Parenthood in November 1999.


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