SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Missouri’s lone abortion clinic got its abortion license renewed by the state this week after a yearlong fight with health authorities.
The state’s decision means the Planned Parenthood in St. Louis’ Central West End will be able to operate through at least 2021 absent further challenges.
The move comes almost a month after a state administrative hearing judge rejected the state health department’s rationale for trying to take away the license last year. (The license has remained active throughout an appeals process.)
The state health department claimed it had good reason to deny Planned Parenthood’s renewal application after discovering four botched abortions it said the clinic failed to report.
But attorneys for Planned Parenthood fought back in court, successfully arguing that the state was magnifying a small number of inevitable complications to tar the clinic in service of top Republicans’ political agendas.
“Planned Parenthood has demonstrated that it provides safe and legal abortion care,” Administrative Hearing Commissioner Sreenivasa Rao Dandamudi wrote in his decision. “In over 4,000 abortions provided since 2018, the Department has only identified two causes to deny its license.”
Missouri’s attorney general still has until Monday to file for reconsideration, but Planned Parenthood officials didn’t wait to tout the win.
“We are pleased to put the licensure issue to rest after more than a year of being targeted by Missouri’s health department,” Yamelsie Rodriguez, who leads the clinic, said in a statement.
Republican efforts to shut down the clinic by imposing ever-stricter regulations have still taken their toll, though.
Planned Parenthood data show the number of procedures at its St. Louis clinic has plummeted in recent years as Missouri patients increasingly seek care across the river in Illinois, which places far fewer restrictions on the procedure.
Rodriguez also appeared to address that in her statement Thursday.
“This abortion license, while critical to our ability to provide care, still cannot undo the harm that longstanding medically unnecessary policies in our state inflict on patients,” she said.
Rodriguez urged Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican who led the charge on denying the license last year, to use the license debacle as an “opportunity to refocus” on other health issues in the state, including the coronavirus pandemic, rising mortality rates for babies and mothers giving birth, and increases in sexually transmitted infections.