Judge mulling over arguments for clinic to keep license

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ST. LOUIS – Women treated at Planned Parenthood in St. Louis have faced life and death issues in the past year, the State of Missouri’s top health official said, Wednesday.

Exactly what those alleged life-and-death issues have been redacted from filings in St. Louis Circuit Court, out of concern for patient and doctor privacy.

Attorneys for Planned Parenthood were back at the courthouse Wednesday, seeking a preliminary injunction to keep the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) from refusing to renew Planned Parenthood’s yearly license to perform abortions.

DHSS has cited “serious concerns” about patient safety.

Planned Parenthood’s attorneys accuse the governor and the state of “weaponizing” laws to shut down abortion services at the state’s clinic that offers abortion.  The cite Governor Mike Parson’s recent signing of a ban on abortions after 8 weeks of pregnancy, to take effect in August.

DHSS Director, Dr. Randall Williams, met with reporters outside the courthouse after Wednesday’s hearing on the injunction.

He outlined alleged violations at Planned Parenthood in the past year, including failure to have the same doctor who performs the pre-op exam also perform the abortion and failure to conduct pelvic exams.  Both are required by law.  Those issues had been resolved, he said, by Planned Parenthood acknowledging the errors and agreeing to comply.

However, 5 of 7 doctors involved in life-and-death issues for patients, still refused to be interviewed by state investigators, he said.

“In (Planned Parenthood’s) own descriptions the term would be ‘critically ill’,” Williams said of the impacted patients.   “Again, as we did our annual investigation, some issues came up that we very much would like to talk to their physicians about that care.  I’ve practiced for 30 years as a board-certified obstetrician.  We do have some concerns we’d like to talk about.”

Planned Parenthood officials point out that no patients have filed complaints and the ongoing costs of the state investigation are measured in more than just dollars.

“It has costs for the women, doctors, and families who are on pins and needles awaiting this complicated legal process when really what they need is access to high quality, safe, legal, abortion care that they can get at the last remaining licensed facility, even while that license hangs by a thread,” said M’Evie Mead, Director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Missouri.

A temporary restraining order to protect the license remains in place.

Circuit Judge, Michael Stelzer, did not rule on the injunction request, Wednesday, or say when he might do so.

His decision will likely rest on legal and procedural arguments but not the merits of the DHSS investigation.

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