U.S. District Judge Brian Wimes on Feb. 22, 2019, refused to issue a preliminary injunction which would have permitted Planned Parenthood to offer abortion services in Columbia, Missouri which has been halted.
The federal judge found that attorneys for Planned Parenthood did not prove that regulations requiring abortion providers have hospital privileges are an obstacle placed in the path to prevent women from having an abortion.
He did say the organization proved that the regulation would require a woman to travel further to obtain an abortion. However, the judge said this was not enough of a reason to issue an injunction.
The judge’s ruling means that the state of Missouri will have only one clinic that performs abortions. The facility is operated by Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri.
On Feb. 10, an arsonist attacked the clinic seeking the injunction. The Columbia Police Department and FBI are offering a $10,000 reward for information which will help lead to the arrest of the arsonist.
Planned Parenthood spokesperson Emily Miller said that the clinic was closed for a week due to the damage caused by the fire, and reopened on Feb. 19. They resumed offering health screening and family planning services at that time.
Since 2015 the Columbia Planned Parenthood clinic has been in a constant legal battle regarding the requirement of hospital privileges. That year, after three years of not having a physician, the clinic was licensed to perform medication-induced abortions.
At the time, a St. Louis-based gynecologist and obstetrician named Colleen McNicholas was granted “refer and follow” privileges at the University of Missouri Hospital, and the clinic met the requirement of hospital privileges.
After extreme political pressure, on Dec. 1, 2015, University of Missouri Hospital revoked McNicholas’ privileges when they ceased offering “refer and follow” privileges. The hospital also stopped affiliating with Planned Parenthood, after intense political pressure.
U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs, in Oct. 2017 permitted abortions to be resumed at the Planned Parenthood Columbia clinic citing a U.S. Supreme court ruling on a similar law from the state of Texas. The judgment stated a clinic could be licensed to perform abortions without the doctor having hospital privileges.
On Oct. 1, 2018, abortion services were halted after the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Judge Sach’s ruling finding:
The hospital relationship requirement may be appropriate given Missouri’s interest in seeing that abortion, like any other medical procedure, is performed under circumstances that will ensure maximum safety for the patient.
On Oct. 3, Judge Wimes rejected a request to renew the injunction, saying the Columbia Planned Parenthood clinic did not meet the other requirements to obtain a license.
The most recent ruling on Feb. 22 was in response for a third injunction request, filed after in Dec. 2018. At that time, Planned Parenthood was notified the had met all requirements to perform abortions except meeting the rule for hospital privileges.
Written by Barbara Sobel
Columbia Tribune: Judge denies Planned Parenthood order to resume Columbia abortions
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