CNA Staff, May 29, 2020 / 03:15 pm (CNA).- The last abortion clinic in Missouri will be allowed to continue operating, despite the state’s decision not to renew its license last year because of health and safety concerns.
The Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis had been battling the state of Missouri in court for over a year after the state Health Department argued that the clinic— the last one allowed to perform surgical abortions in the state— is unsafe.
Sreenivasa Rao Dandamudi, Missouri’s Administrative Hearing Commissioner, issued a ruling May 29 stating that Planned Parenthood has “substantially complied” with Missouri state law, and that “in over 4,000 abortions provided since 2018, the Department has only identified two causes to deny its license,” the Associated Press reports.
The hearing, presided over by Dandamudi, began last October.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services initially refused to renew the clinic’s abortion license in June 2019, following a inspection that March that found evidence of at least four “failed abortions”— meaning they took multiple procedures to complete— at the clinic.
The Health Department submitted a “Statement of Deficiencies” in court, citing an “unprecedented lack of cooperation” on the part of the St. Louis clinic, and a “failure to meet basic standards of patient care.”
In one instance, inspectors found that a woman had undergone an abortion that took five attempts to complete, the AP reports. In another instance, a Planned Parenthood physician reportedly failed to notice that a woman seeking an abortion was pregnant with twins.
The Health Department also said Planned Parenthood went back on an agreement to perform pelvic examinations as a “preoperative health requirement,” and that several doctors at the clinic refused requests to provide interviews with the department.
For its part, Planned Parenthood has accused the state of weaponizing the regulatory process and claimed the state has admitted the pelvic exams are “medically unnecessary.”
When the clinic’s license expired in June, 2019, lawyers representing the Planned Parenthood affiliate secured a restraining order from Judge Michael F. Stelzer of Missouri Circuit Court in St. Louis to allow the clinic to continue performing abortions without a license.
Missouri enacted a comprehensive abortion ban in 2019, which Gov. Mike Parson (R) signed into law. Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis supported the measure.
Missouri’s law set up a multi-tier ban on abortions after eight weeks, 14 weeks, 18 weeks and 20 weeks, as well as bans on abortions conducted solely because of the baby’s race, sex, or Down syndrome diagnosis.
The law was crafted to be able to survive successive challenges in the courts, but a federal judge in August, 2019, struck down all of the bans related to every stage of pregnancy. The following months, the same judge also struck down the part of the Missouri law banning Down Syndrome abortions while the legal challenges continue to be heard.
In the adjacent state of Illinois, Gov. JB Pritzker (D) signed legislation to expand access to abortion in that state.
In response to the possible closure of the St. Louis clinic, Planned Parenthood announced in October, 2019, the opening of an 18,000 square foot, $7 million “mega” abortion clinic in southern Illinois, just a dozen miles from the Missouri site.
Planned Parenthood reportedly arranged construction through a shell company, shielding the nature of the building from public view – and even from workers helping in the construction.
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