By Celeste Bott
A federal judge kept on Wednesday his promise to block two state laws in Missouri that have kept clinics outside of the Planned Parenthood in St. Louis from performing abortions.
U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs said earlier this month that he planned to grant a preliminary injunction invalidating requirements for the state's abortion clinics to meet standards for surgical centers and for their doctors to have hospital privileges.
Sachs said abortion rights of Missouri women were guaranteed by the U.S. Supreme Court in last year's landmark decision in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt that struck down similar restrictions in Texas.
"Relief should be prompt, given the needs of women seeking abortions and the need for available clinics to serve their needs," wrote Sachs, of the Western District of Missouri in Kansas City.
The state laws are at the center of an ongoing legal challenge brought by Planned Parenthood affiliates in Missouri.
Missouri's GOP-led Legislature has long pushed initiatives to limit access to abortion in the Show-Me State. On Wednesday, House lawmakers advanced legislation that would mandate state inspections of abortion clinics, lay out rules for fetal tissue disposal and require that two parents be notified when a minor seeks an abortion.
Supporters argue that the restrictions challenged in this lawsuit protect the health of women by ensuring that abortions are performed in safe, clean facilities.
Abortion rights advocates contend that the restrictions in Missouri have become so stringent that few providers can meet them.
Planned Parenthood plaintiffs Laura A. McQuade and Mary M. Kogut called the ruling "a resounding affirmation we've long awaited."
"Together, we are excited to end Missouri's shameful one-provider status, and soon be offering four more locations where women can access safe, legal abortion without facing geographical obstacles," they said in a joint statement.
But Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, a Republican, vowed to appeal.
"Today a federal court struck down large portions of Missouri law that protect the health and safety of women who seek to obtain an abortion," Hawley said. "Missouri has an obligation to do everything possible to ensure the health and safety of women undergoing medical procedures in state-licensed medical facilities."
Planned Parenthood said the organization would begin the process of restoring abortion services at health centers in Columbia and Kansas City and would begin performing them in Joplin and Springfield, Mo.
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