Second abortion lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood

Friday, October 26, 2007

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Planned Parenthood is seeking a double whammy against a new Missouri abortion regulation, asking a state court to rule on a law that already has been placed on hold by a federal judge.

A law that was supposed to have taken effect Aug. 28 would classify more abortion providers as outpatient surgery centers, thus making them subject to state health department oversight.

But U.S. District Judge Ortrie Smith, of Kansas City, issued a temporary restraining order the day before the law was to kick in and followed that up with a preliminary injunction last month.

Smith ruled that the state likely would impose an unconstitutional burden on the right to an abortion if it enforced the new regulations on facilities that offer only medically induced -- not surgical -- abortions.

In a second lawsuit filed earlier this week, Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri Inc. asked a Jackson County court to declare that the state law cannot apply to clinics that offer only medical abortions, such as its Kansas City facility.

Planned Parenthood's Columbia clinic offers both medical and surgical abortions, and so would not be affected by the lawsuit in state court.

As it did in federal court, Planned Parenthood argues that it is unreasonable to impose the state's regulations on facilities that distribute to women medications that cause a miscarriage after they have left the facility.

Some of those regulations require hallways at least 6 feet wide and procedure rooms with a minimum length and width of 12 feet.

"We think that the statute is problematic from both a state and federal perspective, and so we're covering all bases," Peter Brownlie, Planned Parenthood's president and chief executive officer, said Thursday.

Jane Drummond, the director of the state Department of Health and Senior Services, said Planned Parenthood's latest lawsuit is probably a tactic to drag out the legal proceedings, thus further delaying enforcement of the law.

Brownlie denied that was the intent of the second lawsuit.

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