A U.S. District Judge has ruled in favor of the Columbia Planned Parenthood clinic – issuing a permanent injunction that protects the clinic’s license to perform abortions.
In her ruling on Wednesday, US District Judge Nanette Laughrey granted a permanent injunction to the clinic, therefore preventing the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services [DHSS] from revoking the clinic’s license.
Laughrey wrote that the department likely bowed to political pressure and unfairly revoked the clinic's license compared to how other facilities’ licenses are handled.
“The Court finds that DHSS treated PPKM [Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri] more harshly than other similarly situated institutions and thereby violated the Equal Protection Clause,” Laughrey wrote.
Laura McQuade, the president and CEO of PPKM, said they are pleased with the court’s decision.
“We at PPKM celebrate this legal victory and the impact that it will have on our patients and future patients and their access to safe and legal abortion in Missouri,” McQuade said.
But she calls the lack of access to abortion services in Mid-Missouri an “enormous burden” on patients who need the services that PPKM provide.
By McQuade’s estimation, in the nearly six months they have been unable to provide abortion services, as many as 300 to 350 women would have needed their services. She said this estimation is based on the fact that the clinic was serving approximately 50 to 60 individuals each month prior to the loss of privileges.
The Columbia Planned Parenthood stopped performing medical abortions at the end of November 2015 - after the clinic’s doctor lost privileges through University of Missouri Health Care System.
Prior to this, DHSS informed the clinic of its intent to revoke the clinic’s license immediately - since it would be without a doctor.
While this ruling prevents the revocation of the license at the moment, the ruling does not mean DHSS will never be able to take away the clinic's license. But Laughrey wrote that the agency must follow the same process as it would with other surgical centers.
According to a PPKM Spokesperson, the last time the clinic lost its doctor who held admitting privileges DHSS “took no action” and allowed the license to expire.
The current license for the Planned Parenthood Columbia clinic expires on June 30, and it is not yet known if they will reapply.
The Columbia clinic still cannot offer abortion services until a provider is found with privileges at nearby hospitals, but McQuade said they will continue to work toward either getting their current doctor’s privileges reinstated through the University of Missouri or partnering with a provider who already holds admitting privileges.