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New deadline set for Planned Parenthood abortion license

ST. LOUIS - There was another victory in court for Planned Parenthood of St. Louis on Monday but also a new concern about the clinic's future here.

St. Louis Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer granted a preliminary injunction extending Planned Parenthood’s license to perform abortions. That license expired May 31.

Planned Parenthood sued the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) last month, calling the yearly license renewal process “arbitrary and capricious, trapping the license in limbo, and placing substantial burdens on women” by potentially making Missouri the only state in America without a single licensed abortion clinic.

Planned Parenthood of St. Louis is the only abortion clinic in the state.

Women treated at Planned Parenthood in the past year required hospitalization after becoming critically ill and failed abortions resulted in women leaving the clinic still pregnant, DHSS director Dr. Randall Williams said last week.

Doctors have also failed to comply with state law requiring the same doctor who provides the abortion to meet with patients 72 hours prior and a law requiring doctors to perform pelvic exams on women seeking abortions, Williams said.

Only two of the doctors involved have so far consented to interviews with state inspectors.

Planned Parenthood officials called the injunction a big but temporary victory.

“Our doors are open,” said Dr. Colleen McNicholas, a Planned Parenthood OBGYN. “The laws they have passed and the regulatory demands the State of Missouri has made have nothing to do with patient health or safety. They are only about shaming and stigmatizing not only patients but the doctors who serve them. They have tried and tried to shut us down but thus far they have failed.”

Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed a new heartbeat abortion ban in Missouri, banning abortions after 8 weeks of pregnancy. It takes effect in August.

“We have 7 abortionists, doctors, that practice at Planned Parenthood. Two of those 7 are the only ones who will talk to the health department," said Mary Maschmeier of the pro-life group Defenders of the Unborn. “I think they have the right to ask questions on the merits of what happened on these abortions. They’re refusing to do that. It’s pretty simple to me: the health department has to pull their license for quality care for women.”

The judge also ordered DHSS to either renew or deny Planned Parenthood's license request by June 21. He set a status hearing for that day.

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