JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — A Missouri judge ruled Monday that the state’s lone abortion clinic can continue performing the procedure through Friday, but he kicked the clinic’s lawsuit out of court.
St. Louis Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer extended a preliminary injunction he previously issued in order to give the Planned Parenthood clinic at 4251 Forest Park Avenue time to take a licensing fight before an administrative panel.
Stelzer ruled that the clinic had not yet exhausted its options outside of court to handle the dispute over its license to perform abortions. The state health department declined last Friday to renew the clinic’s abortion license.
The judge directed Planned Parenthood to take the issue up with the Administrative Hearing Commission, a panel that typically handles disputes between state agencies and businesses or individuals.
“We will continue this fight in the Administrative Hearing Commission, and we won’t stop until every person can access the care they need when and where they need it,” said Dr. Colleen McNicholas, an OB-GYN at Reproductive Health Services at Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region.
She said in a statement that if the commission didn’t act by Friday, “abortion access in the state of Missouri will be gone.”
A spokesman for Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, said the judge’s ruling affirmed the state’s contention that the licensing dispute should be heard by the commission.
“We look forward to trying the merits of this case in front of the AHC in our ongoing effort to ensure Planned Parenthood is following our state’s health laws which are necessary to protect women’s safety,” the spokesman, Steele Shippy, said in a statement.
Cases before the commission can be appealed in court.
The fate of the clinic has drawn national attention because if it closes, Missouri would become the first state since 1974, the year after the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide, without a functioning abortion clinic. The battle also comes as abortion rights supporters raise concerns that conservative-led states are attempting to end abortion through tough new laws and tighter regulation.