Missouri Abortion Information Law Will Take Effect During Court Battle
by Paul Nowak
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
May 28, 2004
Jefferson City, MO (LifeNews.com) — A federal appeals court threw out a restraining order against Missouri’s right-to-know law that was passed last year, allowing it to take effect for the first time since the restraining order was placed back in October.
On Thursday, a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis lifted the restraining order that had kept the law from going into effect while the case shifts from federal to state court.
The law required abortion practitioners to provide women with information about abortion’s risks and alternative 24 hours prior to the abortion. Similar laws in other states have reduced abortions by as much as one-third.
Groups on both sides of the abortion debate reacted differently to the news.
"This is good news for the women and their unborn children of Missouri," said Sam Lee of Campaign Life Missouri.
"It could have substantial immediate effects, initially denying abortions planned and scheduled, and delaying and encumbering other abortions that soon would be performed,” said Arthur Benson, an attorney for Planned Parenthood.
U.S. District Judge Scott O. Wright had issued the restraining order October 10, the day before the law was to be enforced, in response to a suit filed by Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri and Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region.
The original hearing in the case was scheduled in January, then rescheduled for Tuesday, May 25 to give the abortion advocates more time to prepare their case.
That hearing was also canceled this week as Planned Parenthood was shifting the case to a state court, and Judge Wright allowed the abortion business 45 days to file a new suit, but left the restraining order intact.
Pro-abortion Attorney General Jay Nixon, who is defending the pro-life law for the state, appealed Wright’s decision to keep the federal restraining order in place while the state lawsuit is being filed, and the appeals court readily agreed.
The legislation, which took immediate effect, also requires abortion practitioners to have at least $500,000 in malpractice insurance.
The Missouri legislature overrode Governor Bob Holden’s veto in September on the legislation, a fact that supporters of the bill shows strong backing for the measure.
"Anytime you override a veto, that’s very significant support. So I believe this will resound very well with the people of Missouri," said Rep. Susan Phillips (R-Kansas City), who sponsored the bill.
The Planned Parenthood affiliates are expected to take their next step by early next week, which could include asking for the full appeals court to reconsider, asking a state judge to issue a restraining order or injunction against the law, or taking the case to the Supreme Court.
Planned Parenthood has been arguing that the criminal penalty section of the bill is too broad and says abortion practitioners could be fined and jailed for each abortion done in violation.
Pam Manning, president of Missouri Right to Life, said the law was drafted to comply with Supreme Court requirements and it is constitutional.
Missouri’s 1999 ban on partial-birth abortion is still on hold Wright’s court after a similar suit was brought against that law five years ago.