Circuit Judge Blocks Missouri from Suspending License of State’s Only Abortion Clinic

May 31, 2019 by Dan McCue
A bill to ban Texas cities, counties and other local governments from doing business with Planned Parenthood has been sent to Gov. Greg Abbott. (Rodolfo Gonzalez/Austin American-Statesman/TNS)

A circuit court judge in St. Louis on Friday stepped in to block Missouri officials from taking away the license of the state’s only abortion clinic.

The decision by St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Michael Stelzer to issue a temporary restraining order came just hours before the St. Louis Planned Parenthood facility’s license was set to expire.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services had said it would not renew the clinic’s license, citing concerns over alleged compromised patient safety and legal violations at the clinic.

Planned Parenthood pre-emptively sued the state earlier this week, arguing anti-abortion officials had effectively weaponized the licensing process.

Had Stelzer not intervened Friday afternoon, as of midnight, Missouri would have become the first state without an abortion clinic since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized the procedure nationwide.

In handing down his order, Stelzer said Planned Parenthood “has demonstrated that immediate and irreparable injury will result” if its abortion license is allowed to expire.

He went on to say that the clinic’s license will “remain in effect” until he rules on Planned Parenthood’s request for a permanent injunction.

A hearing on that request is scheduled to be held Tuesday morning.

In a written statement, Planned Parenthood Federation of America CEO Dr. Leana Wen said, “Today is a victory for women across Missouri, but this fight is far from over.

“We have seen just how vulnerable access to abortion care is here — and in the rest of the country,” she said.

The number of abortions performed in Missouri has declined every year for the past decade, reaching a low of 2,910 last year, according to the state health department.

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