Planned Parenthood back in court, judge to decide on fate of abortions in Missouri

Abortion Law book on copy of Preamble. Gavel and stethoscope.

ST. LOUIS — After a four-day reprieve, Missourians could soon learn whether their state will become the first with no abortion clinics.

Circuit Court Judge Michael Stelzer will have another hearing Tuesday, June 6, before deciding whether the state’s last abortion clinic, Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, can continue performing abortions.

The clinic is suing the state over its refusal to renew its license. That license was supposed to expire Friday, but the judge intervened during a hearing Friday, saying the clinic could keep providing abortions until another hearing Tuesday.

If the St. Louis Planned Parenthood clinic had to stop providing abortions, Missouri would be the first state in the nation to block the procedure in more than 45 years.

Why wasn’t the license renewed?

Last week, the governor said the health department discovered “numerous violations of state laws and regulations” during an annual inspection of the facility in March.

But he would not address questions about the nature of the violations, saying only, “They are well aware of the deficiencies.” Parson said details could not be released “because it is still an ongoing investigation.”

“DHSS now is attempting to shut down (the abortion provider), by unlawfully conditioning a decision on its routine license renewal application on completion of a supposed ‘investigation’ of a patient complaint,” the lawsuit said.

In refusing to renew the license, Missouri’s health department cited “failed surgical abortions in which women remained pregnant” and legal violations, while insisting that it first needed to interview several clinic physicians who had been reluctant to talk. Planned Parenthood said two staff doctors agreed to interviews, but that others who are contractors or no longer work at the clinic would not talk.

What’s the motivation?

The governor said the lack of license renewal revolves around safety.

“We are committed to and take seriously our duty to ensure that all health facilities in Missouri follow the law, abide by regulations, and protect the safety of patients,” Parson said.

But Planned Parenthood said the state’s refusal to renew the clinic’s license is just another tactic in a years-long effort to “restrict abortion access and deny Missourians their right to choose abortion.”

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