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Planned Parenthood in St. Louis may continue abortions, state commissioner decides

Decision comes after lawsuit, hearings over health and safety concerns at abortion facility

A state commissioner decided that Planned Parenthood in St. Louis may continue offering abortions, even though Missouri’s health department has refused a renewal of its abortion facility license.

Missouri Administrative Hearing Commissioner Sreenivasa Rao Dandamudi wrote in a 96-page decision May 29 that Planned Parenthood has “substantially complied” with state law. “In over 4,000 abortions provided since 2018, the department has only identified two causes to deny its license,” he wrote. “Therefore, Planned Parenthood is entitled to renewal of its abortion facility license.”

Testimony was heard at a four-day hearing in October before the Missouri Administrative Hearing Commission. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services denied a renewal of Planned Parenthood’s abortion facility license, citing concerns over patient safety, including several failed abortions.

In a lawsuit filed against the state in 2019, Planned Parenthood alleged that the health department is attempting to shut down the abortion clinic by “unlawfully conditioning” a decision on its license renewal application.

Governor Mike Parson said that the issues are centered on Planned Parenthood not following the law and not protecting women’s health. He cited several cases of failed abortions at the St. Louis clinic, including one in which the patient was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery. A statement from the health department noted that there was at least one incident in which patient safety was gravely compromised, failed surgical abortions in which patients remained pregnant, as well as concerns about quality control and communication with a contracted pathology lab and failure to obtain informed consent.

As part of the renewal application process, the health department sought to interview seven physicians who worked at the clinic. Five of those doctors refused to be interviewed. Planned Parenthood has said that it has no power to compel those doctors to speak with investigators, as they were not directly employed by the clinic.

In June, Planned Parenthood sued the state, and the case went before St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Michael Stelzer. He ordered that the case go before the Administrative Hearing Commission, which conducts hearings and issues decisions in cases involving state agencies and private citizens. In the meantime, Commissioner Dandamudi had kept a preliminary injunction in place allowing abortions to continue.

Deacon Tyler McClay, executive director of the Missouri Catholic Conference, said that he was “disappointed, but not surprised,” about the recent ruling. “It’s frustrating that Planned Parenthood seems to get a pass all the time on safety and health requirements.”

“It’s tragic that unborn children will continue to die, and quite possibly vulnerable women will continue to be injured,” said Deacon Sam Lee, a pro-life lobbyist with Campaign Life Missouri, adding that Planned Parenthood “has a terrible record on health and safety issues, and it’s unfortunate an administrative judge overturned the health department’s decision.”

Alternatives to Abortion

Elsewhere, Gov. Mike Parson recently recommended $6.46 million in Alternatives to Abortion funding for the 2020-21 fiscal year. The program provides a variety of services to pregnant women, including counseling, prenatal care, emergency housing, job placement assistance and adoption referrals when requested.

The governor announced June 1 that the current fiscal year budget would be cut by $209 million, with much of it impacting education. However, he did not make cuts to the Alternatives to Abortion funding, which this year also received $6.46 million.

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