New Missouri Law on Hold

In July the Missouri Legislature passed a bill that reclassified Planned Parenthood and abortion clinics as "ambulatory surgical centers." Whether or not the change was done for safety or to circumvent a woman's legal right to abortion is now the subject of a federal lawsuit.

The changes in Missouri require all clinics that perform five or more abortions a month to be registered under existing guidelines that mandate standards ranging from hallway widths to parking lot sizes to facilities for personnel. The bill also effectively bans Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers from offering sex education and counseling services in Missouri's public schools.

Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri joined with Dr. Allen Palmer, a St. Louis County physician, on Aug. 20 to challenge the new rules in court. The plaintiffs contend the new restrictions would force closure of clinics in Columbia and Kansas City. Palmer, who performs early-term abortions, states in documents filed with the court that the same restrictions don't apply to other private physicians who perform minor surgery in their offices.

"This onerous legislation has nothing to do with protecting women's health and safety," said Peter Brownlie, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. "This is a blatant attempt to close down clinics and deny women their right to health care. Planned Parenthood remains committed to providing needed reproductive health services in Missouri. We are going to court to make sure that women throughout Missouri can get the health services they want and need. We will not stand by and allow politicians to intimidate women and create more barriers to their ability to get health care."

In late August, the Missouri State Health Department told Democratic Attorney General Jay Nixon he would be not be representing their interests in the case. According to State Health Director Jane Drummond, Nixon is "pro-choice and has taken donations from Planned Parenthood." The department has hired to private lawyers affiliated with a conservative religious group that opposes abortion to represent the state's interest.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Ortie Smith extended a temporary restraining order that is blocking the new law. The extension was given to allow more evidence and testimony to be submitted. Smith has promised a ruling in the case by Sept. 24.

The case does not mark the first time abortion providers and the State of Missouri have been at odds. An abortion law passed during a special legislative session in 2005 was challenged by Planned Parenthood. The statute, aimed primarily at those who would transport a minor across state lines for the purpose of abortion without parental consent, was upheld in May by the Missouri Supreme Court.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

For more information or to schedule an interview with contact

  • invalid-0

    I live in Florida and recently found out I was pregnant, which was a surprise since my husband has low sperm (almost none). About 12 years ago my husband was married to another woman and they had a child that had a rare deformity and died @ 6 months. Needless to say, we were both scared to have this child. I tried to go to local clinics, including Plannned Parenthood, to talk to someone about the risks of having this child and considered having an abortion. Both places said they wouldn’t help me because they don’t condone abortions. I wouldn’t have even gone to either of these places if either my husband or I still had our jobs, which we lost due to construction and the economy is so bad here right now. Anyhow, I am now 6 months pregnant and am keeping my fingers crossed that the baby is ok. But I think it was and is totally wrong for these places to refuse me any help just because I mentioned I might have an abortion. What are we women to do? This type of discrimination is totally rediculous! If I were black or was descriminated against for being a woman, I could get these places in real trouble. But it’s ok for places to do this kind of descrimination. I do not believe that abortion should be a means of contraception, as I have read about women having several, but I do believe in a womans right to have the choice and the help if she needs it. After all, I think sometimes some women should be made to have them or get their tubes tied-like when they already have children they can’t or won’t take care of.

  • invalid-0

    How can we assist Plan Parenthood in this matter? I live in Missouri and I don’t like this situation at all, esp since they can not go to the public schools and educate our children. Our children need a REAL education about their bodies, not just told to abstain. We all know how well abstinance works.

  • invalid-0

    It seems the best way to help PP of Kansas City/Missouri is by visiting their site and donating or volunteering! If someone else has some good ideas, feel free to comment!

    Thank you for asking!