JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A federal judge on Friday blocked enforcement of a new state law further restricting abortions, saying it would have forced an end to the procedure in part of Missouri.
The new law requires doctors performing abortions to have clinical privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. It also lets parents sue people who "intentionally cause, aid or assist" their minor daughters in getting abortions without their consent.
U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughery (search) said the civil liability language "threatens an immediate chilling effect on all abortion counseling within Missouri and nearby states," in part because the language is too vague to know what actions could be targeted.
The temporary restraining order came just one day after Republican Gov. Matt Blunt (search) signed the new law passed during a special legislative session.
Lawmakers said the new civil liability provisions were aimed at people who help teenagers get abortions in neighboring Illinois, which has no parental consent law.
Blunt spokeswoman Jessica Robinson said the governor looked forward to debating the law's merits as the court later considers a preliminary or permanent injunction.
"We stand by this good pro-life law that will reduce the number of abortions in our state," Robinson said.
During a court hearing earlier Friday, attorney Janet Crepps of The Center for Reproductive Rights (search) said the new law was unique nationally in limiting the assistance adults could provide to pregnant teenagers considering abortions.
Crepps also argued that the clinical restrictions would force an end to abortions at Springfield Healthcare Center Inc., for whom she filed the lawsuit.
Laughery agreed that the law posed an immediate and irreparable harm to the clinic and an undue burden on women by effectively eliminating the only option for abortions in southwestern Missouri.
"I can tell you we are absolutely ecstatic," clinic administrator Michelle Collins said. "We will be providing surgeries on Monday and it will be business as usual."
Planned Parenthood (search) has filed a separate challenge to the law. There has been no hearing or ruling in that case.