The Missouri Health Department will not renew Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri's annual license to provide abortions, CBS News reported Friday. Now it's up to a judge to decide whether the clinic will continue to provide abortion services or if Missouri will become the first state without a legal abortion provider since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973.
Last month, Republican Gov. Mike Parson signed a measure into law banning abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy, which is meant to go into effect by the end of August. Shortly after, health officials moved to stop the clinic from offering abortion care, citing safety concerns.
Officials notified the clinic that it had to comply with three requirements in order to renew its license: an additional pelvic exam 72 hours before the procedure, clarifying which clinic workers provide patients with state-mandated counseling, and making available physicians for interviews as part of an inquiry into the clinic's "deficient practices." The Planned Parenthood clinic immediately complied with the first two requirements, but the third one put the license-renewal process on hold. According to the clinic, it could only arrange interviews with two of the physicians on staff, since the rest are residents-in-training not employed by Planned Parenthood.
The organization sued to avoid a lapse in abortion services, since the license was set to expire on May 31. A district judge granted a preliminary injunction so the clinic could keep offering abortions and gave the state until Friday to make its final decision regarding the license renewal. Missouri officials refused to renew it. Now, Judge Michael Stelzer must decide whether the legal challenge falls under the court's jurisdiction or if the dispute can be solved in an administrative hearing.
"While Gov. Parson and his political cronies are on the wrong side of history, nothing changes right now for patients who need access to abortion at Planned Parenthood. We will continue providing abortion care for as long as the court protects our ability to do so," Dr. Colleen McNicholas, OB-GYN at the clinic, said in a statement provided to Refinery29. "This decision signals the true motive behind this license-renewal mess that has left patients in limbo, uncertain about their healthcare: to ban abortion without ever overturning Roe v. Wade. Shame on Gov. Parson and [Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services] Director Randall Williams."