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Judge denies Planned Parenthood's request to dismiss video-based lawsuit

The Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region & Southwest Missouri clinic on Wednesday, April 19, 2023, in the Central West End.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
The video at the center of the lawsuit, captured in December, was posted on social media by Project Veritas, a self-proclaimed right wing news organization that often conducts undercover stings.

A lawsuit filed by Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey accusing Planned Parenthood of transporting minors out of state for abortions will move forward, a judge ruled Tuesday evening.

The lawsuit is based on conversations between Planned Parenthood staff and a man with Project Veritas who secretly filmed the staff while inquiring about an abortion for his fake 13-year-old niece.

Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which runs the Kansas City area clinic where the video was taken, asked that the judge dismiss the lawsuit shortly after it was filed.

“We’re reviewing all our options and will continue to vigorously defend this case based on hypotheticals and fictitious patients,” Erin Thompson, general counsel with Planned Parenthood Great Plain, said in a statement Wednesday.

At a hearing in early June, John Andrew Hirth, an attorney for Planned Parenthood, said there was no proof the Kansas City area clinic broke the law.

“There’s no allegation that any abortion has been performed either in Missouri or outside of Missouri, with or without parental consent here,” Hirth said. “The whole conversation is hypothetical.”

But Boone County Judge Brouck Jacobs found merit for moving forward with the case. He did not issue an opinion along with his ruling explaining his reasoning.

“This is the beginning of the end for Planned Parenthood in the State of Missouri,” Bailey said in a statement Tuesday following the ruling.

The video, captured in December, was posted on social media by Project Veritas, a self-proclaimed right wing news organization that often conducts undercover stings.

The man filming in the clinic told staff that the made-up girl’s parents couldn’t know about the abortion. Staff then directed him to their affiliate clinics in Kansas where they said he could “bypass” parental consent. When the man asked how often girls go out of state for abortions, the Planned Parenthood employee said it happens “every day.”

Kathryn Monroe, who represented the attorney general’s office at the hearing, said while the man’s questions were hypothetical, the employee at Planned Parenthood thought the situation was real.

“There was admitted conduct about what they would do in this actual situation,” she said.

The attorney general’s office in its arguments before the court pointed to Missouri law which states: “No one shall intentionally cause aid or assist a minor to obtain an abortion.”

That law was written before the state’s trigger law went into place in June 2022, effectively making all abortions — with the exception of life-threatening situations — illegal.

Missouri doesn’t have explicit laws requiring parental consent for minors getting abortions in other states, nor does it prohibit minors from going to other states to get abortions.

Kansas law requires physicians to either obtain parental consent or to go through the judicial bypass process where a judge can authorize a minor to get an abortion without parental consent.

A spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Great Plains said in February that they do not provide any form of transportation directly to any patients, regardless of age or where they live.

Anna Spoerre is a reproductive health care reporter for The Missouri Independent based in Kansas City.