Missouri’s Sole Abortion Provider Can Stay Open for Now, Judge Rules
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A St. Louis judge has ordered that Missouri’s sole outpatient abortion provider — the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis — be allowed to keep its doors open for now.
However, in his order granting a preliminary injunction Monday, St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Michael Stelzer made clear he disagreed with some of the main arguments made by Planned Parenthood’s attorneys.
He ordered the state health department to officially deny or grant renewal of the clinic’s license by June 21, in order for the clinic to appeal the decision to the state’s administrative hearing commission.
The clinic’s license lapsed May 31, while its application for a new license was pending. The clinic sued three days before the old license expired after the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services made clear it would not consider its application without interviewing seven doctors who had provided treatment at the clinic as part of an investigation into patient care.
Five of the seven physicians have declined to be interviewed. Planned Parenthood has said it cannot compel the doctors to comply with DHSS’s investigation because they are not employees, but rather contracted through teaching hospitals and medical schools. Stelzer ruled that testimony from four of the physicians was irrelevant to what the court was trying to decide.
In his order, Stelzer agreed with DHSS’s main argument that the appropriate venue for the Planned Parenthood to challenge the state on licensing matters was the Administrative Hearing Commission, or AHC. The commission includes appointed judges that handle disputes over decisions made by state agencies and whose opinions are open to judicial review.
Stelzer granted the preliminary injunction because by letting the clinic’s license lapse without approving or denying its application, the department had not taken an “official action” that Planned Parenthood could appeal. During a hearing last week, DHSS had maintained that not weighing in on the renewal application was the same as a rejection.
During the same hearing, a Planned Parenthood attorney had said that even if the clinic were to take the matter to AHC, it didn’t know “what in the world” it would be appealing. DHSS has not disclosed the scope of its investigation, nor has it given the clinic a list of findings it could contest.
Stelzer rejected Planned Parenthood’s main argument that the regulations surrounding abortion provider licensure exceeded the state’s general licensing laws and should be declared invalid.
Planned Parenthood’s ability to provide abortions will remain intact until further order by Stelzer.
Shortly after Stelzer’s ruling, Planned Parenthood of St. Louis issued a statement, declaring victory but maintaining the fight was not over.
“Today’s ruling gives doctors like me the ability to wake up tomorrow and continue providing safe, legal abortion in the last health center in the state that provides abortion care,” Dr. Colleen McNicholas, a physician with the clinic, said. “For patients, that means for now, they can continue to make decisions about their bodies, lives, and future in their home state.”
A request for comment to DHSS was not immediately returned.
©2019 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)
Visit The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) at www.kansascity.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
In The News
Lobbying campaigns and legislative battles have been underway for months as Congress tries to solve the problem of surprise billing, when patients face often exorbitant costs after they unknowingly receive care from an out-of-network doctor or hospital. As Congress considers various plans and negotiates behind the... Read More
Andrew Echeguren, 26, had his first psychotic episode when he was 15. He was working as an assistant coach at a summer soccer camp for kids when the lyrics coming out of his iPod suddenly morphed into racist and homophobic slurs, telling him to harm others... Read More
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has rolled out a new video tutorial aimed at helping veterans file disability compensation benefits claims online. The tutorial tells veterans how they can learn about and apply for benefits earned using the online claims tool the department... Read More
WASHINGTON — Supreme Court justices, both conservative and liberal, appeared skeptical Wednesday of a Trump administration argument that the federal Clean Water Act should not apply to sewage plant wastewater that flows into the ground and eventually seeps into federally protected waters, such as rivers or... Read More
WASHINGTON — Absent action by Congress in the next three weeks, Dr. Michael Waldrum, CEO of Vidant Health, is going to have to figure out what medical services to deny hard-pressed communities in rural eastern North Carolina. “It runs the gamut,” Waldrum said in an interview... Read More
HAMBURG, Germany — Every now and then, Katie West considers returning to the United States. She moved to Germany for graduate school three years ago and now works as a health systems researcher in Hamburg. Her family is an ocean away. Then she remembers why she... Read More