Updated May 31 at 3 p.m.
A judge has granted a temporary restraining order to Planned Parenthood in St. Louis, hours before its abortion facility license was to expire at the end of the day May 31. The order prevents the clinic's license from expiring. St. Louis Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer has set a new hearing for 9 a.m. Tuesday, June 4, on whether to grant Planned Parenthood a preliminary injunction.
Gov. Mike Parson recently said the issues involve the abortion clinic’s failure to comply with the law as well as consideration for women’s health. In a May 29 press conference, he said the clinic had several deficiencies, and cited several recent cases of failed abortions.
Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region filed a lawsuit against the state May 28 in St. Louis Circuit Court. It alleges that the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is attempting to shut down the abortion clinic by “unlawfully conditioning” a decision on its license renewal application. Health department director Dr. Randall Williams and Gov. Mike Parson also were named as defendants in the suit.
Planned Parenthood has said that the health department’s move is related to an investigation of a patient complaint, and that the health department is “refusing to proceed with its investigation in a reasonable manner.”
Planned Parenthood in St. Louis, located in the Central West End, is the only abortion clinic in Missouri. If it loses its license, Missouri would become the first state without an operating abortion clinic since the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision. Non abortion-related services would still be offered at the clinic.
“DHSS will continue to act in good faith to do our statutorily required duty to regulate facilities to help keep people safe and assure compliance with the law,” Dr. Williams said in a statement. “The unprecedented refusal by Planned Parenthood to fully cooperate as they have in the past heightens our regulators’ concerns about what their investigation has revealed to date.”
Gov. Mike Parson said in a press conference on May 29 that the issues are centered around Planned Parenthood not following the law and not protecting women’s health. He cited three recent 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 least one incident in which patient safety was gravely compromised, failed surgical abortions in which patients remained pregnant, as well as concerns about 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 is seeking to interview seven physicians that have worked at the clinic as part of its investigation. Five of those doctors have refused to be interviewed. Planned Parenthood has said that it has no power to compel those doctors to speak with investigators as they are not directly employed by the clinic.
Jamie Boyer, an attorney representing Planned Parenthood, said at a hearing May 30 that any deficiencies that existed at the St. Louis clinic have been corrected, and the state's investigation of the physicians is "open-ended" and "unspecified," and that the state's rationale for wanting to interview the physicians has shifted.
However, John Sauer, a lawyer for the health department said that there are still "serious concerns" that need to be addressed, and that the burden of compelling the physicians to be interviewed lies with the clinic.
“There are health concerns that still remain,” Parson said in his press conference earlier this week. “Every step should be taken to ensure that all laws are followed for the safety and well being of women’s health care.”
If the clinic complies, “then they’ll be issued a license,” Parson said. “This is about a standard of care for women in the state of Missouri.”
“We’re very pleased that Dr. Randall Williams and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services are doing everything to protect the health and safety of women who are seeking abortions in Missouri,” said Deacon Sam Lee, a pro-life lobbyist with Campaign Life Missouri. “It is unconscionable that Planned Parenthood would continue to resist these reasonable health and safety regulations.”