Missouri Is on the Verge of Losing Its Last Abortion Clinic

Pro-choice activists holding “I Stand With Planned Parenthood” signs at city hall in New York City.
Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty

Missouri’s last abortion clinic says their license is expiring this week—and without a renewal in place, the state could become the first without a clinic that can perform abortions since the passage of Roe v. Wade, CBS News reported on Tuesday.

The abortion license for Missouri’s remaining Planned Parenthood clinic performing abortions expires on May 31, with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services warning that an investigation of “deficient practices” and request for interviews with seven physicians at the clinic may impact its license renewal.

The department, in a May 20 notice to Planned Parenthood obtained by CBS News, also told the clinic that it needed to change who provides the state-mandated counseling to patients seeking an abortion, and to provide an additional pelvic exam for patients receiving a surgical abortion. The clinic, located in St. Louis, agreed to comply with those two requests, but told CBS News it is unable to control the department’s third request to interview physicians in relation to its investigation.

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Dr. Colleen McNicholas, a Planned Parenthood physician in St. Louis, told the outlet that the department hasn’t stated what its investigation is regarding. But it appears that the investigation will prevent the clinic from practicing abortion after May 31. From CBS News:

...According to Planned Parenthood, the health department said it was investigating “deficient practices,” and needed to interview seven physicians who provide care at the clinic. Planned Parenthood said it could offer interviews only with two who are its employees. The remaining physicians provide services at the facility but aren’t employed by Planned Parenthood and have not agreed to be interviewed.

In its letter, the Department of Health wrote that it could not “complete our investigation until it interviews the physicians involved in the care provided in the potential deficient practices,” and that “the investigation needs to be completed and any deficiencies resolved before the expiration of [the clinic’s] license on May 31, 2019.”

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Planned Parenthood told NPR that state officials signaled that the interviews could lead to criminal proceedings or board reviews for the physicians involved, with Planned Parenthood President Dr. Leana Wen calling Missouri’s demands “harassment” attempting to “intimidate” abortion-providing physicians.

According to the ACLU, Missouri is currently one of six states with only one abortion clinic remaining. The Planned Parenthood clinic will be able to provide other healthcare services after May 31, but without a renewed abortion license, legal abortion will effectively end in the state.

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“This means that more than 1.1 million women of reproductive age in Missouri will live in a state where they cannot receive the health care they need,” Wen said in a statement to NPR. “This is a world we haven’t seen in nearly half a century.”

News of the potential closure comes days after Missouri became the latest state to pass a de facto abortion ban, prohibiting abortion after eight weeks of pregnancy, well before many people find out they’re pregnant. Protesters challenged the legislation on Saturday, with hundreds gathering in downtown St. Louis to rally against the policy, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The ban takes effect in late August, though it’s likely to be legally challenged, much like the bans passed in five other states this year: Planned Parenthood says they plan to sue Missouri and ask for a restraining order to stop the state from forcing the clinic to stop providing abortions after the license expires.

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About the author

Samantha Grasso

Splinter Staff Writer, Texan