Planned Parenthood asks justices to step into abortion dispute (UPDATED)

[Update on Monday, September 25: Justice Neil Gorsuch has asked Missouri to respond by 3 p.m. on Thursday, September 28, to Planned Parenthood’s application.]

Arguing that two Missouri abortion requirements are “virtually identical” to the Texas regulations that the Supreme Court struck down in 2016, Planned Parenthood asked the Supreme Court to reinstate a lower court’s order blocking the state from enforcing the requirements.

After the Supreme Court’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt in 2016, Planned Parenthood went to federal district court in Missouri, arguing that two of the state’s abortion requirements violate the Constitution: the requirement that physicians providing abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic and the requirement that abortion facilities be licensed as surgical centers. The combined effect of the two requirements, Planned Parenthood tells the justices, is that there are only two facilities providing abortions in Missouri, “a state that covers nearly 70,000 square miles and has a population of over six million people.” And that in turn, Planned Parenthood argues, “imposes enormous burdens on women seeking abortion” in the state, particularly women who are poor, have medical conditions or are victims of abuse.

The district court temporarily blocked the state from enforcing the two requirements, reasoning that both rules bore a close resemblance to the Texas rules that the Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional in Whole Woman’s Health. The state appealed the district court’s order to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit and asked that court to stay the lower court’s order pending appeal. After the 8th Circuit declined to freeze the district court’s order, the state went to the full 8th Circuit, which agreed to do so.

Today Planned Parenthood asked the Supreme Court to step in, arguing that if it does not, three other health centers “will remain unable to provide abortion services pending resolution of the appeal before the Eighth Circuit—even though the laws preventing them from doing so are surely unconstitutional.” The group’s filing was directed to the court’s newest justice, Neil Gorsuch, who handles emergency appeals from the geographic region that includes Missouri. Gorsuch can handle the request himself or refer it to the full court; he can, and is likely to, also direct the state to respond before ruling on Planned Parenthood’s application.

This post originally appeared at Howe on the Court.

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