Missouri Denies License for State’s Last Abortion Clinic

Anti-abortion advocates gather outside the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis on June 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

ST. LOUIS (CN) – Missouri officially denied Planned Parenthood’s license on Friday, but a St. Louis judge kept a preliminary injunction in place allowing the state’s only remaining abortion clinic to stay open for now.

It is the latest development in what Planned Parenthood officials call a weaponized use of the regulatory process to effectively end abortion in the state. If the license denial is ultimately allowed, Missouri would become the first state without any abortion providers since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 landmark decision Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion up until 22 to 24 weeks of pregnancy.

The state’s health department decided not to renew the license for Planned Parenthood of St. Louis, but at a brief hearing Friday morning, St. Louis Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer kept in place the preliminary injunction he issued June 10.

The injunction required the state to either approve or deny Planned Parenthood’s abortion license by Friday. Attorneys for both sides confirmed during the hearing that an official denial letter was given to the clinic around 9:30 a.m., about 30 minutes before the hearing.

Stelzer said that more time was needed to determine the next step in the case, primarily whether it will stay in the court or be moved to the Administrative Hearing Commission for further consideration.

He gave no timetable for when his order determining the fate of the case would come.

After the hearing, M’Evie Mead, director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Missouri, blasted Randall Williams, head of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, and called on Governor Mike Parson to remove him.

“He has made a debacle of this process and has dragged Missouri through shameful, shameful attention and he has harmed many, many women including the 100 women who had to undergo the medically unnecessary pelvic exam,” Mead told reporters.

That exam, Mead said, was an intrusive procedure done at the time of an abortion that the state admitted in its denial letter wasn’t medically necessary and said it would cease requiring it.

Planned Parenthood sued the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, Williams and Parson in May, seeking injunctive relief with its license set to expire. It claims the state has illegally refused to renew the St. Louis clinic’s abortion license until officials complete an investigation into an unspecified patient complaint.

Parson, a Republican, signed a bill on May 24 banning abortions on or after the eighth week of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape or incest. In addition to the eight-week cutoff, the bill also imposes a penalty of up to 15 years in prison for doctors who violate the ban. Women who receive abortions would not be prosecuted.

The bill, which is set to become law on Aug. 28, also includes an outright ban on abortions, but only if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned.

Missouri has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, with a 72-hour waiting period in addition to the impending eight-week ban.

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