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Health & Science

Missouri Planned Parenthood seeks to expand abortion access

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Planned Parenthood officials in Missouri asked a federal judge Monday to block abortion regulations so four additional clinics can offer the procedure during a legal battle over the laws that anti-abortion activists have called "flabbergasting" and "dangerous."

Leaders of Missouri's Planned Parenthood centers want U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs to temporarily block state abortion laws the organization's leaders say have led to limited access to the procedure.

The laws require abortion doctors to be able to admit abortion patients at nearby hospitals and require clinics to meet hospital-like standards for outpatient surgery. The U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down similar regulations in Texas.

Missouri's only abortion clinic now is in St. Louis.

Laura McQuade and Mary Kogut, who serve as presidents and CEOs of different Missouri-area Planned Parenthood chapters, said blocking the laws will allow them to offer drug-induced and surgical abortions in Columbia and Springfield, as well as drug-induced abortions in Joplin and Kansas City.

Such action by Sachs is critical "to expand access to safe and legal abortion care as soon as possible in Missouri," McQuade said.

Anti-abortion activists and Republican state lawmakers slammed the lawsuit later Monday outside Columbia's Planned Parenthood center, the site of one of several press conferences with abortion opponents in the state that day.

Anti-abortion activist Joanne Schrader during the press conference in Columbia said the effort to undo the laws is "as flabbergasting as it is dangerous."

Schrader also criticized what she said were 63 ambulance runs from the St. Louis abortion clinic since 2009.

Bonnie Lee, another activist at the Columbia press conference, did not immediately provide The Associated Press with records of the ambulance runs. She said the documents from St. Louis-area emergency responders did not note whether calls were related to abortions but said they show safety concerns.

Dr. David L. Eisenberg, the medical director of the Planned Parenthood chapter that covers St. Louis, in a statement called the claims "baseless political attacks." He said ambulance calls by Planned Parenthood show medical staff know when to call for needed help.

Republican state Rep. Diane Franklin during the Columbia press conference also announced legislation to ban fetal-tissue donation and impose additional abortion regulations. That's one of several abortion proposals already filed, and more are likely to come when the legislative session begins in January.