COLUMBIA, Mo. — A ruling that a federal appeals court issued Friday appears to at least temporarily stall the expansion of abortion services in Missouri, except for a clinic in Kansas City that will begin offering abortions Monday.
Currently, only one clinic in St. Louis offers elective abortions. The full 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a one-sentence temporary stay that blocks enforcement of a lower court ruling that required the state to issue licenses to abortion clinics in more Missouri cities.
In April, U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs barred the state from enforcing new abortion regulations involving physician privileges and physical requirements for abortion clinics. Sachs ruled that Planned Parenthood was likely to prevail in court because the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016 struck down similar laws in Texas.
After that ruling, Planned Parenthood Great Plains received a license to provide nonsurgical abortions at its Kansas City clinic. The organization also expected to receive a license for surgical and medication abortions at its Columbia clinic in the near future. Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri also applied for licenses to provide abortions in Springfield and Joplin. Those applications were still being reviewed by the Department of Health and Senior Services, which licenses abortion clinics in Missouri.
While the Kansas City clinic will still offer abortions beginning Monday, the future of licenses at the other clinics is now uncertain.
Planned Parenthood Great Plains condemned the appeals court ruling Friday. The organization said the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that admitting privileges and the physical requirements for abortion clinics are unconstitutional and create an undue burden on women seeking legal abortions.
“Let’s be clear, these are politically and ideologically motivated laws that will do nothing but harm Missourians,” Great Plains interim president and CEO Aaron Samulcek said in a statement. “We have never and will never stop fighting for our patients’ ability to access safe, legal abortion — that is a promise we intend to keep.”
Anti-abortion groups hailed Friday’s ruling as a victory, the Columbia Daily Tribune reported.
“I think what this means is that Columbia, Joplin and Springfield probably will not be licensed by the department,” said Sam Lee, director of Campaign Life Missouri.
Sara O’Connor, a spokeswoman for the health department, said the agency doesn’t comment on ongoing litigation.