Missouri abortion clinic’s fate in hands of state panel

Columbia, Mo. (ap) — Missouri’s only abortion clinic asked a state panel Tuesday for an extension to continue providing abortions, but on Thursday it looked as if the panel wouldn’t grant the stay in time to stop the clinic’s license from expiring.

The state health department last week refused to renew the St. Louis Planned Parenthood affiliate’s license, and a court order protecting abortions at the clinic is set to expire today.

Planned Parenthood is appealing the denial of its license to Missouri’s Administrative Hearing Commission, which handles licensing fights and other disputes between state agencies and businesses. If the commission doesn’t act, Missouri could be the first state without a functional abortion clinic since 1974 — the year after the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

“Missouri has 1.1 million women of reproductive age who will have no access to abortion care anywhere in the state if a stay is not granted,” attorneys for the clinic wrote in a legal filing to the assigned commissioner, Sreenivasa Rao Dandamudi, who was appointed by former Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.

As of Thursday afternoon, the committee hadn’t taken action on Planned Parenthood’s request for a stay.

Other services could continue at the clinic if it loses its license to perform abortions.

The state has said concerns about the clinic arose from inspections in March. Among the problems Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services investigators have cited were three “failed abortions” requiring additional surgeries and another that led to life-threatening complications for the mother, The Associated Press reported last week, citing a now-sealed court filing.

Planned Parenthood has said Missouri is using the licensing process as a weapon aimed at halting abortions and sued in response.

A St. Louis judge on Monday issued a court order shielding abortions at the clinic through Friday and then kicked the issue to the Administrative Hearing Commission.

Commission decisions can later be appealed in court.

Missouri is among several conservative states, emboldened by new conservative justices on the Supreme Court, to pass new restrictions on abortions in the hope that the high court will eventually overturn Roe v. Wade.

Republican Gov. Mike Parson signed legislation on May 24 to ban abortions at or beyond eight weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions for medical emergencies but not for rape or incest.

The number of abortions performed in Missouri has declined every year for the past decade, reaching a low of 2,910 last year. Of those, an estimated 1,210 occurred at eight weeks or less of pregnancy, according to health department data.

More Missouri women are getting abortions in Kansas than in Missouri. Information from the state of Kansas shows that about 3,300 of the 7,000 abortions performed there last year involved Missouri residents.

Kansas has an abortion clinic in Overland Park, a Kansas City suburb just 2 miles from the state line.

The nearest clinic to St. Louis is in Granite City, Illinois, less than 10 miles away. Executive Director Dr. Erin King has previously said Hope Clinic for Women is open to Missouri women and staff will “do everything in our power to make sure that further barriers associated with seeking abortion care out of state are minimized.”

Illinois does not track the home states of women seeking abortions so it’s unknown how many Missouri residents have been treated there.


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