What does Monday's Supreme Court Decision Mean For Abortion Providers in Missouri?

Jun 29, 2016

Kristin Metcalf-Wilson said the activist in her couldn’t help leading cheers of “What do we want? Access. When do we want it? Always.” with those gathered Monday at Glenn’s Café to celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision in the case Whole Woman’s Health et al. v. Hellerstedt.

Metcalf-Wilson is the lead clinician for Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, which operates the Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia. She along with the Planned Parenthood Advocates of Kansas and Mid-Missouri and NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri were sponsoring a  “Happy Hour” to celebrate the Supreme Court’s ruled that some regulations for abortion providers in Texas were an “undue burden.”

Kristin Metcalf-Wilson and her husband.
Credit Rebecca Smith / KBIA

“At 9 o'clock this morning, which I was so happy they didn't make me wait all day long, the Supreme Court had set precedent for us. Which is one of the biggest decisions for reproductive rights in 20 years,” Metcalf-Wilson said.

Two regulations for abortion providers and clinics were specifically addressed in the lawsuit – admitting privileges for doctors performing abortions and the required ambulatory surgical center license for abortion facilities.

The decision, written by Justice Stephen G. Breyer, says these provisions did not offer “medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes.”

Metcalf-Wilson explained – using a little less jargon.

“The decision this morning said that those specific restrictions don’t improve the quality of care for women, and in fact, only decrease the access, because it closes clinics in Texas,” Metcalf-Wilson said.

So, how does a Supreme Court decision about a case that is specific to Texas affect Missouri - a state with similar regulations and laws for abortion providers and clinics?

Metcalf-Wilson said that no one is quite sure how Missouri clinics will move forward under this new precedent, but, she adds, legal teams are examining it at the moment.

“A lot of people would think, 'If this decision passed down today, can you provide abortion services tomorrow?' Well the answer would be no," Metcalf-Wilson said. “But our legal team is looking at now… challenging those restrictions in our state.”

Essentially the legal teams of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri are determining whether or not this ruling applies to Missouri and, if so, how to proceed and how to challenge the Missouri laws about ambulatory surgical licenses and admitting privileges.

This Supreme Court ruling  is especially relevant to the Columbia Planned Parenthood clinic because it has been directly affected by these provisions.

The clinic’s physician has been unable to regain admitting privileges since the University of Missouri Healthcare System withdrew privileges last year – thus the clinic cannot provide abortion services. Additionally, the clinic’s ambulatory surgical center license is set to expire in a number of days. 

“June 30th is when our license for ambulatory surgical status ends. We do have notification from the state - they are observing that timeline,” Metcalf-Wilson said. “So it is kind of a crunch time for us to see if we can either meet the current restrictions or how we can either stay pending proceedings with the decision from the Supreme Court today. So there are a lot of balls up in the air.”

While Metcalf-Wilson and others were celebrating the Supreme Courts decision on Monday, a half dozen individuals were situated outside in 90-plus-degree weather outside the Columbia clinic – less than a mile away from the party.  

A group of pro-life supporters gather outside the Columbia Planned Parenthood clinic.
Credit Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Kathy Forck is a member of Columbia 40 Days for Life, and was one of the individuals that was gathered outside the clinic. She said that for her and the others, the decision was “disheartening.”

“We care about women. We care about their safety. We care about their health.” Forck said. “We want to make sure they are receiving the benefits that they should by being seen in a center that meets basic standard regulatory procedures that are put in place for their safety.”

Back at the celebratory party, Metcalf –Wilson said that Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri is committed to bringing abortion services back to Columbia, but regardless of what the Supreme Court’s decision means for Missouri and for the Columbia clinic’s future as an abortion provider, the clinic is still there providing other health services.

“We are open and we provide care no matter what. So even if abortion services aren't... we will still be there doing general gynecology, transgender care, HIV prevention, family planning, reproductive health services as we always have,” Metcalf-Wilson said.