Missouri’s only abortion clinic continues fight over license

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri’s only abortion clinic asked a state panel on Tuesday for an extension to continue providing abortions after its license is set to expire Friday.

The state health department refused last week to renew the license of St. Louis’ Planned Parenthood clinic at 4251 Forest Park Avenue. A court order currently allows the clinic to continue providing the service, but the order is set to expire Friday.

If the Administrative Hearing Commission doesn’t act before then, Missouri could be the first state without a functional abortion clinic since 1974 — the year after the landmark U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

“Missouri has 1.1 million women of reproductive age who will have no access to abortion care anywhere in the state if a stay is not granted,” attorneys for the clinic wrote in a legal filing to the assigned commissioner, Sreenivasa Rao Dandamudi, who was appointed by then-Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat.

Other services could continue at the clinic if it loses its license to perform abortions.

The state has said concerns about the clinic arose from inspections in March. Among the problems Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services investigators have cited were three “failed abortions” requiring additional surgeries and another that led to life-threatening complications for the mother, The Associated Press reported last week, citing a now-sealed court filing.

Planned Parenthood has said Missouri is using the licensing process as a weapon aimed at halting abortions, and it sued in response.

On Monday, a St. Louis judge issued a court order shielding abortions at the clinic through Friday but kicked the issue to the Administrative Hearing Commission, which handles licensing fights and other disputes between state agencies and businesses. Commission decisions can later be appealed in court.

An Administrative Hearing Commission hearing on Planned Parenthood’s license is set for Aug. 1 in St. Louis. In the meantime, Planned Parenthood wants Dandamudi to rule on its request for a stay before Friday. A hearing on that request has not yet been scheduled.

June Heath

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