Planned Parenthood in St. Louis Could Stop Performing Abortions as Early as This Week

May 29, 2019by Jack Suntrup
Dr. Leana Wen, president of Planned Parenthood, speaks with staff from Planned Parenthood Mar Monte at a clinic in San Jose, Calif. (Anna Maria Barry-Jester/Kaiser Health News/TNS)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s only abortion provider could stop performing the procedure as early as this week.

Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region runs the state’s only abortion clinic, located in the Central West End of St. Louis.

Planned Parenthood officials said Tuesday the facility’s license was in jeopardy after the state sought to “interrogate” doctors as part of an annual license renewal process. Officials said the move was an “intimidation” tactic by the Department of Health and Senior Services.

Since Planned Parenthood and the state have not come to an agreement on staff interviews, the Central West End clinic could cease abortion services on Friday when its current license expires, officials said.

“Missouri would be the first state in the country to go dark — without a health center that provides safe, legal abortion care,” Dr. Leana Wen, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement.

Dr. Randall Williams, director of DHSS, told the Post-Dispatch that the state would make a decision by Friday on whether to renew the facility’s license.

Williams said before Planned Parenthood held a press conference on Tuesday that he could not comment on Planned Parenthood’s application.

A department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to charges by Planned Parenthood that the state had “illegally weaponized” the license renewal process.

Planned Parenthood said in a news release it planned to file a lawsuit in St. Louis Circuit Court on Tuesday in order “to try to keep serving Missouri women.”

The Tuesday announcement by Planned Parenthood came less than a week after Gov. Mike Parson signed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.

Most of the law’s provisions — including one prohibiting most abortions eight weeks into a pregnancy — do not take effect until the end of August.

In the Metro East, Planned Parenthood operates an abortion clinic in Belleville, Ill. Another abortion provider, the Hope Clinic for Women, operates in Granite City, Ill.

Dr. Erin King, executive director of the Hope Clinic, said when the Legislature approved the new law that the clinic will work with patients from conservative states such as Missouri who may lose access to abortion services.

“We will continue to be one option for Missouri patients, as we always have. While the state of Missouri is waging a war against its abortion services and providers, the Hope Clinic remains committed to the patients of Missouri,” she said in a statement on Tuesday. “We will do everything in our power to make sure that further barriers associated with seeking abortion care out of state are lessened to the best of our ability.”

Illinois, led by Democrats, has reported more out-of-state abortion patients in recent years as its Republican-led neighbors further restricted abortions.

Meanwhile, the ACLU of Missouri submitted a referendum to the Missouri secretary of state’s office on Tuesday in an effort to repeal the abortion law Parson signed last week.

The ACLU and allies will have to collect more than 100,000 signatures and turn them into the secretary of state before Aug. 28, when the law is supposed to go into effect.

If the group turns in enough signatures, the state will not be allowed to enact the law. At that point, a simple majority of voters could veto the law once it is placed on the ballot in 2020.

The method is the same one unions used last year in their successful effort to overturn the state’s short-lived right-to-work law.

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©2019 St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Visit the St. Louis Post-Dispatch at www.stltoday.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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