A court hearing was scheduled Wednesday on an effort by the only abortion clinic in Missouri to retain its license.
Planned Parenthood says it may be forced to stop providing abortions at its St. Louis facility because the state is threatening not to renew its license, which expires Friday. Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit Tuesday to try to keep the license to perform abortions.
If the license is not renewed, the organization says Missouri would become the first state without a functioning abortion clinic since the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.
Missouri Republican Gov. Mike Parson was holding a news conference on the matter in his Capitol office an hour before the 1:30 p.m. court hearing on Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit. It will be the state’s first response to Planned Parenthood’s concerns.
According to Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit, the state health department visited the clinic in April to investigate a patient complaint.
Planned Parenthood says the agency hasn’t specified the complaint, but said its subsequent “investigation has identified a large number of potential deficient practices requiring explanation by the physicians directly involved in patient care, as well as the attending physicians.”
The lawsuit says the state wanted to interview seven physicians, including medical fellows who no longer provide care at the clinic. It says two staff doctors agreed but the others did not, and Planned Parenthood can’t compel them because they’re not staff.
Any stalemate over interviews is significant because, according to the lawsuit, the health department won’t decide on renewing Planned Parenthood’s license until the investigation is complete.
The dispute comes days after Parson signed a bill banning abortions on or beyond the eighth week of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape or incest. Missouri is among half a dozen states that have passed sweeping anti-abortion measures.
If the St. Louis clinic no longer can provide abortions, the nearest clinics performing abortions are in a Kansas suburb of Kansas City and in Granite City, Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. The Kansas clinic is about 260 miles (420 kilometers) from St. Louis.
Even before the latest legislation, Missouri already had some of the most restrictive abortion regulations in the nation, including a requirement that doctors performing abortions have partnerships with nearby hospitals.
A total of 2,910 abortions occurred in 2018 in Missouri, according to provisional data provided by the state health department. That includes 433 abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy and 267 at six weeks or earlier.
Ballentine reported from Jefferson City, Missouri.