JEFFERSON CITY — Health Department Director Jane Drummond announced Wednesday the department would use an outside lawyer, rather than the attorney general, in a Planned Parenthood lawsuit challenging the state’s latest abortion-restriction law.
Drummond said Jay Nixon was too closely tied to Planned Parenthood, including having received financial support from the organization. She also said Nixon’s record of supporting abortion rights was one of the reasons for his removal.
“I did not believe I could trust you to defend me and my department vigorously,” Drummond wrote in a letter to Nixon.
Drummond said in the letter she has obtained free counsel for the department. The letter did not indicate who was providing the free legal services. The department did not immediately return phone calls.
As the state’s official lawyer, Nixon defends laws that have been challenged. And Nixon’s office made it clear the Democratic attorney general did not intend to step aside.
“For the Attorney General’s Office, this is about law, not politics. The legislature passed House Bill 1055, and, as in the past, we will defend the law. We will certainly attempt to work with the Department of Health and Senior Services to make sure we have a coordinated, united defense,” Nixon’s office said in a written statement.
Planned Parenthood filed a federal lawsuit Monday claiming legislation passed last year will eliminate abortion services in the majority of the state. The proposal would require that facilities providing abortions be licensed as ambulatory surgical centers. Planned Parenthood has warned that requirement could force the organization to cease providing abortions at its Columbia and Kansas City facilities.
The legislation will take effect Aug. 28 unless blocked by the courts.