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“This Is Not a Drill": Missouri Could Lose Its Only Abortion Clinic Friday

The state health department won't renew the clinic's license unless the physicians submit to questioning

by Emma Ockerman
May 28 2019, 5:19pm

Missouri may this week become the first state to have zero abortion clinics.

Just days after the Republican governor green-lit a strict abortion ban, Missouri’s health department said it is withholding the license of the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis — the only such clinic serving the state’s 1 million women of reproductive age — until the clinic’s physicians submit to questioning that the organization considers unfair interrogation, according to NPR. The license expires May 31. Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood argued in a press release Tuesday that it has already complied with other burdensome, medically unnecessary state requirements to keep its license, like requiring two pelvic examinations on every woman who wants a surgical abortion.

Another Planned Parenthood clinic in Missouri had to stop providing abortion services last fall, and if the same thing happens at the St. Louis location, it would make Missouri the first state in the nation without any such clinic since the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which legalized abortion in the United States.

Missouri is one of six U.S. states with just one remaining abortion clinic, leaving them susceptible to sudden closure if the state passes laws requiring strict transfer agreements with nearby hospitals or inspections before granting a medical license, according to the Guttmacher Institute. In recent years, such tactics have been used to threaten remaining abortion clinics in Kentucky and Mississippi.

“What is happening in Missouri shows that politicians don’t have to outlaw abortion to push it out of reach entirely,” Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement. “This is a direct result of a years-long effort by anti-abortion politicians to pass medically unnecessary restrictions that burden providers with the goal of forcing them to shut down.”

If Republicans get their way, the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis will close in 72 hours. The reproductive health organization plans to sue to keep performing abortions in the state, according to a statement released Tuesday.

On Friday, Gov. Mike Parson green-lit a bill outlawing abortion after eight weeks of pregnancy — before many women are even aware they are pregnant — and offering no exceptions for victims of rape or incest. Parson said he wants to make the state the most “pro-life” in the country. The law is set to take effect in August.

The state was able to successfully halt abortion services at a clinic in Columbia last year, as it was unable to secure physician and hospital admitting privileges to comply with a new state law. (That same clinic, which still provides some reproductive health services, was also damaged earlier this year by an arson fire that the FBI is investigating as a possible hate crime.)

The laws do little to improve patient care, according to the Guttmacher institute, but can quickly shut down an abortion clinic — particularly if it’s in a rural area or surrounded by religious hospitals.

“This is not a drill. This is not a warning. This is a real public health crisis,” Leana Wen, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement.

Cover: Mary Roy, of Potosi, Mo., holds a rosary in support of a pro-life rally, Tuesday, July 21, 2015, outside a Planned Parenthood building in St. Louis. Anti-abortion activists on Tuesday released a second undercover video aimed at discrediting Planned Parenthood's procedures for providing fetal tissue to researchers. (Laurie Skrivan/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)