Law & the Courts

Judge Punts Decision on Renewing License of Missouri’s Lone Abortion Clinic

An imaging table at the Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood St. Louis Region in St. Louis, Miss., May 28, 2019. (Lawrence Bryant/Reuters)

A judge ruled Monday that Missouri’s last abortion clinic may continue to perform abortions until Friday afternoon, but left the question of whether its license to operate should be renewed to a state panel.

St. Louis Circuit Court judge Michael Stelzer extended the preliminary injunction he’d previously granted to Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, allowing it to continue offering abortions until Friday. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services had declined to renew the clinic’s license on Friday, leading it to mount a legal challenge. Stelzer’s ruling sent the question of the license’s renewal to the Administrative Hearing Commission, which mediates disputes between state regulators and private companies or individuals.

“The court has not authority to intercede in this matter until there has been a final decision by the AHC,” Stelzer wrote.

The health department said it had concerns with how abortions have been performed at the clinic, citing three “failed abortions” that required additional surgeries to rectify, and another that threatened the life of the mother.

“The terrifying reality is that access is hanging on by a thread with a narrowing timeline,” said Dr. Colleen McNicholas, who performs abortions at the clinic. “The truth is, if the Administrative Hearing Commission does not act by Friday, abortion access in the state of Missouri will be gone. This creates uncertainty for the patients we serve.”

If the clinic is shuttered, Missouri will be the first state not to have an operating abortion clinic since Roe v. Wade legalized the procedure nationwide in 1973.

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