Sister, can you spare $2 million?

Missouri law could force costly clinic renovation -- or make abortion even less accessible.

By Lynn Harris

Published July 25, 2007 7:39PM (EDT)

Via Bush v. Choice: A measure is set to go into effect in Missouri next month that will require any clinic performing a certain minimum number of abortions to be licensed as an "ambulatory surgical center." The stated purpose: Ensure women's health and safety. But clinics, of course, have been performing safe surgical abortions for years. The real goal: Put clinics out of (the abortion) business. The end result, ergo: Endanger women's health and safety.

According to the Joplin (Mo.) Globe, the renovations necessary for compliance would cost Planned Parenthood's Columbia clinic upward of $2 million. Either they're going to have to have one big-ass bake sale, or they're going to have to stop providing abortions, leaving a St. Louis clinic as Planned Parenthood's only site in the state -- which lacks providers in 97 percent of counties already -- for surgical abortions.

It's a diabolically clever approach. It's interesting -- and perversely heartening -- that antiabortion forces have seen the need to at least pay lip service to the actual women involved in reproductive health concerns. At the same time, the law itself isn't about people and psychology. It sidesteps the inherently stickier stuff, such as required waiting periods and offers of ultrasounds. It's about women, but it's also, well, clinical. I mean, it's about facilities. Nice and dispassionate. See?

And, as Broadsheet has reported, similar tactics have been deployed in states such as Mississippi, also not a Mecca for seekers of reproductive healthcare. But -- long legal story short (see the Joplin Globe story for more) -- the Missouri measure goes farther than others, applying not only to facilities that provide second-trimester abortions but also to those providing any more than five first-trimester procedures. According to NARAL Pro-Choice America's legal eagles, it's the first, and harshest, of its kind; Planned Parenthood is weighing a lawsuit.

Would it prevail? Historically, under Roe v. Wade precedent, first-trimester abortion rights have been safest in court. Then again, one court in particular has been pretty busy upending precedent. "It could be that a court would find this to be an undue burden because of the first trimester aspect," Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia, told the Globe, "but it's not at all clear."

Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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