KANSAS CITY, MO. (AP) - A federal judge says he plans to issue a preliminary injunction to block abortion-restricting rules in Missouri similar to ones in Texas that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down last year.
U.S. District Judge Howard F. Sachs announced his move in a memo filed Tuesday in Kansas City, Missouri. He said he would give the state time to craft a plan for patients to avoid unintended "collateral damage" from the injunction, which was sought by Planned Parenthood.
Sachs wrote that his ruling would invalidate Missouri's requirements that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, and that clinics meet hospital-like standards for outpatient surgery.
Planned Parenthood affiliates with Missouri health centers sued over those restrictions last November, five months after the nation's high court threw out similar Texas rules that sharply reduced the number of abortion clinics there. The Supreme Court, in its 5-3 ruling, rejected Texas' claims that its 2013 law and follow-up regulations were needed to safeguard women's health.
"Missouri has not complied with that decision," Sachs, who heard arguments in the Missouri lawsuit on March 21, wrote in Tuesday's memo.
The Planned Parenthood affiliates behind the Missouri lawsuit said in a statement Wednesday they were "strongly encouraged" by Sachs' intention against what they called illegal "and medically unnecessary abortion restrictions in Missouri."
"Judge Sachs was clear in his memo that these laws are unconstitutional and only seek to block access to safe, legal abortion," their statement read. "We look forward to working with the court and the state to expand access to safe, legal abortion in the state as soon as possible."
Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley's office didn't immediately return messages seeking comment Wednesday.
Only one licensed abortion clinic remains in the state — a Planned Parenthood center in St. Louis — partly as a result of Missouri's abortion restrictions. Planned Parenthood says the center is too far away for some women to use it.
The organization has said that 1.2 million women of reproductive age live in Missouri, and that Planned Parenthood health centers in Kansas City, Columbia, Joplin and Springfield would provide abortions if the restrictions were scrapped.
Planned Parenthood's Kansas City center has offered medication-induced abortions and said it would resume doing so if Sachs deemed the Missouri regulations in question unconstitutional, Planned Parenthood attorney Melissa Cohen told the judge last month.
Its Columbia center stopped offering the procedure — a nonsurgical type, induced with a pill — in 2015 after its only doctor performing medication-induced abortions lost needed privileges with University of Missouri Health Care. That left the St. Louis clinic as Planned Parenthood's only abortion provider.
John Sauer, an attorney for the state, said during last month's court arguments that Planned Parenthood's lawsuit seeks a "regulatory blackout" that could endanger women by essentially enabling unsavory abortion providers to crop up.
Sauer also argued that the Texas case decided last year and the Missouri one differ, insisting that the Texas filings were less complete and persuasive than those now before Sachs.
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