Missouri Abortion Clinic Regulations Stand

By George Khoury, Esq. on September 12, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals recently issued a ruling in the matter over the state of Missouri's regulations for abortion clinics. And unfortunately for the challengers who succeeded in obtaining an injunction at the federal district court level, the appellate court didn't quite see it the same way.

The court found that the challengers hadn't actually established a sufficient injury or irreparable harm to qualify for the injunction. This was due to the fact that the state regulations allow for variances to exempt requesting clinics from certain parts of the regulations, and none of the challengers had applied for the variance and been denied.

Appealing to Variance

The Eighth Circuit's decision explained at the outset that to obtain an injunction, a petitioner must have more than just "slight implication and vague conjecture." The clinics argued that the regulations regarding abortion clinics' physical requirements and those requiring abortion clinics' doctors to have a "hospital relationship," meaning that they have "admitting privileges" at a hospital within 15 minutes of the clinic, violated substantive due process.

The appellate court, however, found that the neither regulation violated substantive due process based on the lower court's evaluation of the facts and interpretation of Hellerstedt. In addition to finding that the clinics never applied for the exemption, the appellate court held that the district court erred by not weighing the benefits of the law against the burdens imposed on the challengers and public. The panel stressed that the lower court's refusal to weigh the benefits of the abortion regulations failed to follow Hellerstedt. The case was remanded so that the district court could apply the correct analysis on that challenge.

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