Last fall, Planned Parenthood stopped performing abortion procedures at its clinic in Columbia, Mo., after its license expired and the affiliate had no physicians with admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, a violation of state law. That left Planned Parenthood with only one location providing abortions in the state, a facility in St. Louis.
Now, Missouri is likely to become the first state since 1974 without an abortion clinic, as Planned Parenthood’s last remaining location risks losing its license for failing to comply with an audit to determine whether it is in compliance with state abortion regulations.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services informed the abortion provider earlier this month that it was in violation of three policies, threatening its license renewal. Planned Parenthood agreed to adjust its practices to comply with state requirements related to mandatory abortion counseling and pelvic exams for women seeking an abortion.
But Missouri officials also notified Planned Parenthood that the state needs to conduct interviews with seven physicians who work at the St. Louis location, and several of those doctors declined to be interviewed. Planned Parenthood told CBS News that “it could offer interviews only” with doctors who are their employees, but not those physicians who are not Planned Parenthood employees, so the situation is at an impasse.
On Tuesday, Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit to try and prevent the Missouri government from denying the license renewal, and arguments are scheduled for this afternoon. If the abortion group loses, it will no longer be able to perform abortion procedures at its St. Louis facility beginning June 1.
Should that happen, it would be the fifth abortion clinic in Missouri since 2008 to cease performing abortions. In 2017, then-governor Eric Greitens, a Republican, signed a bill enforcing stricter regulation of abortion clinics, seeking to create safeguards to protect the health and safety of women obtaining abortions.
These policies — enacted in a number of red states around the country as a bare-minimum effort to regulate abortion under the expansive regime created by Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt — consistently face intense opposition and legal challenges from abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood and abortion-rights activist groups such as NARAL, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the American Civil Liberties Union. The reflexive opposition from “women’s health” groups to health-and-safety policies enacted solely to protect women from medical malpractice and the common harmful effects of abortion procedures is a sight to behold.
Earlier this month, Missouri became the latest of several Republican states to pass a heartbeat bill, restricting abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which usually occurs at about six weeks’ gestation.
Editor’s note: This post has been updated since its initial publication.