Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) announced Friday that it had rejected the license application of Planned Parenthood Missouri, the state’s last remaining abortion clinic. Just hours later, however, State Circuit Court Judge Michael Stelzer decided to continue a previously granted preliminary injunction, which allows Planned Parenthood to continue operating and performing abortions despite its lapsed license.
“Today is a victory for women to be able to access the kind of medical care that they and their health professionals need and deserve,” M’Evie Mead, director of policy and organizing at Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri told reporters on the courthouse steps following the hearing.
She added, “it is still very, very difficult to access abortion in Missouri because of medically unnecessary hoops and regulations, but you can still come to Planned Parenthood today for all of your reproductive health care, and that is a good day for women.”
The controversy stems from DHSS’s refusal to renew Planned Parenthood of Missouri’s license, which was set to lapse on May 31.
As previously reported by Law&Crime, the department’s stated reason for refusing the license renewal is that the clinic failed to agree with state investigators’ demands to interview seven doctors regarding allegations of “deficient practices.”
However, only two of those doctors were employed by Planned Parenthood, while the other five provided services at the facility. Planned Parenthood agreed to provide interviews with the two doctors under its employ, but the other five declined to be interviewed. Planned Parenthood has stated that it cannot compel the non-employees to submit to investigators’ interview requests.
Planned Parenthood submitted a plan of correction to DHSS Tuesday (an official statement of how they will address DHSS concerns), in which they declared that they would no longer abide by the state’s mandate requiring physicians to perform pelvic exams at least 72 hours prior to abortions, a procedure Planned Parenthood has long decried as unnecessary and invasive.
During the hearing, Stelzer remarked that he would issue an additional order to determine the case’s next step, according to the Kansas City Star. It is not clear at this time when such an order will be issued.
Stelzer had ordered DHSS to approve or reject the application by June 21. The department’s formal denial allows Planned Parenthood to appeal the decision to the Administrative Hearing Commission which resolves disputes between private citizens or businesses and state agencies. Any decision by an AHC commissioner is subject to judicial review.
If Planned Parenthood of Missouri’s license is not ultimately renewed, Missouri would become the first state without a legal abortion provider since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. It is already one of only six states with just a single abortion clinic.
[image via Youtube screengrab]