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Missouri’s Last Abortion Clinic Could Close This Week (Updated)

Dennis Carter

The revocation of the St. Louis clinic's license is expected to be met with a legal challenge.

UPDATE, May 31, 2:28 p.m.: Judge Michael Stelzer of Missouri Circuit Court on Friday granted the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis a temporary restraining order, the New York Times reports. The facility will remain open while the clinic resolves issues with the state’s medically unnecessary regulations. 

The Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis will lose its license to provide abortion care on May 31, after years of having to comply with medically unnecessary requirements meant to shut down abortion clinics. This would leave the state without a single stand-alone abortion care provider.

The revocation of the clinic’s license is expected to be met with a legal challenge.

Missouri’s health department will not renew the Planned Parenthood clinic’s license, the health-care organization told CBS News. Planned Parenthood could still be legally allowed to provide non-abortion services in Missouri, according to media reports.

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Planned Parenthood addressed two of the state health department’s medically unnecessary requirements, CBS News reports: “adjusting who at the clinic provided the state-mandated counseling and adding an additional pelvic exam for abortion patients.”

But the organization could not comply with the health department’s requirement to interview seven physicians who provide health care at the St. Louis Planned Parenthood clinic. Only two of those physicians are employed by Planned Parenthood, and the other five didn’t agree to the health department’s interview demands.

“It is outrageous that in order for people to get health care that honors their dignity and autonomy, physicians who provide abortion care must put their lives and livelihood on the line every day,” Jodi Magee, president and CEO of Physicians for Reproductive Health, said in a statement. “The hostility and harassment physicians face from protestors at clinics to politicians at state houses is unacceptable, and it has only gotten worse in the past few years. Abortion is health care—no one should be intimidated out of providing it or receiving it. Politicians must stop putting targets on physicians’ backs and let them care for patients without political interference.”

The potential closing of the state’s last abortion care clinic comes just weeks after Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R) signed an anti-choice omnibus bill aiming to challenge the legal precedent of Roe v. Wade.

Dr. Colleen McNicholas, an ob-gyn with Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, said during a Tuesday Planned Parenthood press call that anti-choice lawmakers in Missouri had created a web of abortion restrictions that “create barriers to care for the most vulnerable populations.”

“Unsurprisingly and perhaps by design, this will disproportionately impact people of color, people of low income, and people who live in rural areas,” McNicholas said. “When politicians go after reproductive health care, they’re making a conscious effort to drive communities of color and women with low income further into poverty.”

Dr. Anuj Khattar, who provides abortion care in Oklahoma, said he sees people who travel from Missouri for abortion services. By the time Khattar sees these patients, they have often driven hundreds of miles, arranged child care, and taken time off work.

“The most disgusting part for me is thinking about how many people can’t afford to do this,” he said during the Tuesday press call. “They’re being forced into a position they aren’t ready for or don’t want to be in.”

Khattar said “anti-abortion bullies” in state legislatures have created hostile environments for doctors who provide abortion care. “Politicians aren’t just working against us, they’re intimidating us and treating us like criminals.”

Michele Landeau, board president of the Missouri-based Gateway Women’s Access Fund, said in a Tuesday statement that the requirements forced upon abortion providers across the United States have been used as political weapons against health-care organizations and the legal right to abortion.

“This has absolutely nothing to do with health and safety,” Landeau said. “It has everything to do with conservative ideology and politics being forced upon everyone.”

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