Missouri's last abortion clinic to remain open, judge orders

The license for the Planned Parenthood clinic was set to expire Friday night.

May 31, 2019, 2:38 PM

A circuit court judge ruled Friday that Missouri's only remaining abortion clinic can continue performing the procedure.

If St. Louis Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer had not approved Planned Parenthood's request for a temporary restraining order, the clinic's license would have lapsed and it would have been forced to close Friday night at midnight, making Missouri the first state in the nation without an abortion provider.

With the temporary restraining order granted to allow the clinic to stay open, there will be another hearing on June 4, Stelzer said in his ruling. Stelzer also clarified in his ruling that it was only on the question of a restraining order, not on any other part of the issue at hand.

"Today is a victory for women across Missouri, but this fight is far from over," Dr. Leana Wen, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America said in a statement. "We have seen just how vulnerable access to abortion care is here—and in the rest of the country."

The ruling is "a huge sigh of relief," Dr. Colleen McNicholas, an OB-GYN at the Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, said in a statement.

"Our doors are open today, our doors will be open tomorrow, and we will fight to make sure all patients continue to receive the care they need and deserve," McNicholas said.

With the fate of Missouri's lone Planned Parenthood clinic in the balance demonstrators marched at the St. Louis Gateway Arch and at state government offices in an ongoing fight for abortion rights in the state on Thursday.

"What do we do? Stand up, fight back!" they chanted.

State health officials had refused to renew the St. Louis clinic's license until doctors agree to interviews about what Gov. Mike Parson is calling "a series of deficiencies."

PHOTO: Jackie Gold and her daughter Juno Gold, 19 months, pass out Planned Parenthood signs before a rally to protest the closure of the last abortion clinic in Missouri on May 30, 2019, in St Louis.
Jackie Gold and her daughter Juno Gold, 19 months, pass out Planned Parenthood signs before a rally to protest the closure of the last abortion clinic in Missouri on May 30, 2019, in St Louis.
Jacob Moscovitch/Getty Images

"It's shame on Missouri politicians and government for weaponizing the licensing and regulatory process to end safe and legal abortion in Missouri," said M'Evie Mead, director of Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri. "People should have access to safe, legal abortion in this state."

Planned Parenthood officials announced Tuesday they were filing a lawsuit for a restraining order to stop the state from closing the clinic, which is located in St. Louis.

The organization said it had applied to have the license renewed, but the Associated Press reported that Planned Parenthood said state officials claimed they are investigating "a large number of possible deficiencies," though no further details were given.

The state had asked to interview all seven of the clinic's physicians, Planned Parenthood said Tuesday, but the state would not provide any guidance on what the doctors would be asked during the interviews. Those interviews could lead to the doctors losing their medical licenses or possible criminal prosecution, Planned Parenthood said.

Missouri is one of several states that have passed abortion bans in recent months. Last week, Gov. Parsons signed an abortion ban after 8-weeks of pregnancy, though it has not yet taken effect, and was met with immediate legal challenges.

Less than 24 hours ago, lawmakers in Louisiana passed new abortion restrictions that outlaw the procedure as early as 6 weeks into a pregnancy. On Thursday, the state's governor -- a Democrat -- signed the bill into law. It has not yet gone into effect, and will be challenged in court.

ABC News' Meghan Keneally and Alexandra Svokos contributed to the reporting in this story.

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