Planned Parenthood can continue providing abortion services for now, but it’s unclear if — or how long — that will last.
St. Louis Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer on Monday, June 24, extended a preliminary injunction he had previously issued to allow Planned Parenthood in the Central West End to continue performing abortions through Friday, June 28. Stelzer said the extension was intended to give Planned Parenthood time to dispute the denial of its license before an administrative panel hearing with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
If the commission doesn’t act before 5 p.m. on Friday, June 28, abortion access at the clinic will cease, making Missouri the first state without an abortion clinic since the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade that established a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy.
Patients who had appointments at Planned Parenthood this week still had access to abortion care when the West End Word went to press on Tuesday, June 26.
“The terrifying reality is that access is hanging on by a thread with a narrowing timeline,” Dr. Colleen McNicholas, an OB-GYN with Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis region, said in a statement on Monday, June 24. “The truth is, if the Administrative Hearing Commission does not act by Friday (June 28), abortion access in the state of Missouri will be gone. This creates uncertainty for the patients we serve. We will continue this fight in the Administrative Hearing Commission, and we won’t stop until every person can access the care they need when and where they need it.”
Three days before Judge Stelzer granted the clinic’s extension to continue to provide abortion services, the state health department declined to renew Planned Parenthood’s license to perform abortions. In its decision on Friday, June 21, the department said the clinic’s license was not renewed because of Planned Parenthood’s “unprecedented lack of cooperation” and “refusal to comply with state law and regulations protecting women’s health and safety that resulted in numerous serious and extensive unresolved deficiencies including multiple that involved life-threatening conditions for patients.”
The health department also accused the clinic of failing to correct several deficiencies state inspectors had cited earlier this year.
Planned Parenthood officials have said the fight over the license is an attack by anti-abortion politicians to eliminate the procedure. In May, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed one of the country’s strictest abortion laws, which bans abortion procedures after eight weeks of pregnancy.
The license issue only affects the clinic’s abortion services. Planned Parenthood provides a range of services to women and men including routine medical exams, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, birth control, cancer screenings, counseling and more.