The last remaining abortion clinic in Missouri will stay open for now, after a judge ruled Friday that it can continue operating, even as the state refused to renew its license.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services had warned that it may not renew Planned Parenthood’s license to operate the clinic, citing concerns about alleged violations of state regulations. The clinic’s license was scheduled to elapse at midnight Friday, which would have forced it to close and made Missouri the first state without an abortion services provider since the Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade in 1973.
In his ruling Friday, Judge Michael Stelzer wrote that the local Planned Parenthood clinic had “demonstrated” that it would face “immediate and irreparable injury” if its license expired. Stelzer put a temporary restraining order in place, which will allow the clinic to continue operating for now as the case moves forward. The next hearing is scheduled for June 4.
“Planned Parenthood has served Missouri for more than 87 years and we aren’t going anywhere,” Dr. Colleen McNicholas, an OB-GYN at the Planned Parenthood clinic, said in a statement after the ruling. “While Governor [Mike] Parson abandoned our patients, we will not. Our doors are open today, our doors will be open tomorrow, and we will fight to make sure all patients continue to receive the care they need and deserve.”
Dr. Leana Wen, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, said earlier in the week that the situation amounts to “a weaponization of the licensing process” that “takes politicization of medical care to a new level.”
The judge’s decision came after hearing oral arguments in court Thursday and as abortion rights advocates staged a demonstration in St. Louis.
Attorneys for Planned Parenthood have said the state’s concerns have been resolved; however, both sides are at an impasse over demands that five contract physicians be interviewed about patient care cases that came up during the inspection. The doctors have refused the interviews out of fear that doing so could put them at risk of being charged under the state’s laws.
In May, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed a law banning abortion after 8 weeks of pregnancy, with no exception for rape or incest. Under the law, which goes into effect in August unless blocked in the courts, doctors who perform abortion procedures after 8 weeks could face between 5 and 15 years in prison.
A total of 2,910 abortions occurred in 2018 in Missouri, according to provisional data by the state health department.