Missouri’s Last Abortion Provider Wins Temporary Stay to Keep Operating

But the Planned Parenthood clinic could still be shut down later this month.

Abortion-rights supporters march Thursday, May 30, 2019, in St. Louis.Jeff Roberson/AP Photo

Missouri’s last abortion provider will continue to be able to provide abortion services on a temporary basis after a federal judge granted the clinic a temporary injunction on Monday.

Circuit court judge Michael Stelzer clarified that he has yet to make a final decision on whether or not the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis will be allowed to keep its license, but granted the temporary injunction until the court issues another ruling. He is also directing the state’s Department of Health and Senior Services to make a final decision on whether it wants to approve the clinic’s license by June 21 when the judge has scheduled a final hearing.

State regulators in Missouri claimed that they had “ongoing concerns about potential deficient practices,” going on at the clinic, and demanded to question the doctors working there. When the clinic ultimately declined to force medical staff, most of whom are not Planned Parenthood employees, to sit for questioning, state regulators moved not to renew the clinic’s license when it was scheduled to expire at the end of May, claiming that they could not issue the license until the final audit was complete. Planned Parenthood then sued the state, arguing that Missouri officials had abused their regulatory authority. 

This is the third time Stelzer has ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood in this case. Last Tuesday, the judge sided with the clinic in one of the central issues of the dispute and agreed that medical staff at the clinic who were not employed by Planned Parenthood should not be forced to submit to questioning from the state. On May 31, the judge granted the clinic its first temporary injunction, allowing the clinic to keep its license the day it was set to expire. 

While Monday’s stay is only temporary, Planned Parenthood CEO & President Dr. Leana Wen called the decision “a clear victory.”

For doctors in the clinic like Dr. Colleen McNicholas, the ruling gives her and her patients a layer of stability during an uncertain time for abortion access in Missouri. “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,” McNicholas said in a statement. “For patients, that means, for now, they can continue to make decisions about their bodies, lives, and future in their home state.”

The heightened threat to the last abortion provider in Missouri comes as the state has ramped up other efforts to restrict abortion access. In May, the state passed a “fetal heartbeat” bill which bans abortions as early as six weeks in, often before someone would even be aware that they are pregnant. State regulators and lawmakers have also pushed further restrictions on abortion providers, including rules that require medically unnecessary pelvic exams and regulations that force providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.

“While this is welcome relief for patients and providers at Planned Parenthood, this fight is far from over,” McNicholas said. “Abortion access in Missouri is hanging on by a thread and for many, politicians like Gov. Parson have already created an impossible landscape for patients who need access to abortion.”

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.