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Appeals Court: Taxpayers Must Cover Planned Parenthood’s Legal Fees

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal appeals court has upheld a judge’s order that Missouri taxpayers pay more than $156,000 to cover Planned Parenthood’s legal bills tied to a dispute over a clinic’s abortion license.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday affirmed U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey‘s August 2016 decision that the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services must pay the attorneys’ fees and expenses incurred by what now is Planned Parenthood Great Plains.

Laughrey also had permanently blocked the state from revoking the Columbia clinic’s abortion license, concluding that the challenge of the license likely was at least partly due to “political pressure.” The opinion Thursday by the three-judge 8th Circuit panel did not address that matter, declaring it moot.

The legal fight over the clinic came after the department warned it would revoke its license when its only doctor performing abortions — a nonsurgical type, induced with a pill — lost needed privileges with University of Missouri Health Care in 2015.

Under Missouri law at that time, the state’s restrictions involving abortion included requirements that doctors who perform such procedures have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and that clinics meet hospital-like standards for outpatient surgery. Without a physician with those privileges, the Columbia clinic stopped performing abortions.

But earlier this year, a federal judge in Kansas City issued a preliminary injunction blocking Missouri’s restrictions at the request of Planned Parenthood affiliates with Missouri health centers.

U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs said he was bound by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a Texas case and that Missouri has been denying abortion rights “on a daily basis, in irreparable fashion.”

The state has asked a federal appellate court to intervene.

As of Thursday, St. Louis’ Planned Parenthood is the state’s only licensed abortion provider, though that soon may change.

Planned Parenthood’s Kansas City center has offered medication-induced abortions and has said it would resume doing so if Missouri regulations in question were deemed unconstitutional. Planned Parenthood regional affiliates have said the agencies have applied for licenses for their clinics in Kansas City and Columbia. They’re hoping to offer abortion services at those locations by this summer and are preparing related applications to the state for the Joplin and Springfield sites.

[image via Shutterstock]

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