Missouri on brink of being first state without abortion clinic

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Demonstrators rally in support of abortion rights on May 21 in St. Louis. Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images

A hearing beginning in St. Louis this week could result in Missouri becoming the first U.S. state to be without at least one abortion mill. The hearing is to determine whether the state’s last remaining clinic, located in St. Louis, can keep performing the procedures.

The hearing arises from a licensing dispute between Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s administration and Planned Parenthood, which operates the clinic. A state commission is reviewing the issue.

The center came within days of stopping abortion services after state officials refused to renew the license in July, citing health regulation violations. Planned Parenthood filed suit and was allowed to keep operating with the case still pending.

Gov. Parson, an opponent of abortion, said that the health and safety of patients is at the center of the dispute. Planned Parenthood officials say regulators with the state Department of Health and Senior Services have “weaponized” state regulations, applying excessive scrutiny to the clinic to get it shut down.

“This serves as an example of how abortion access could effectively be banned without ever overturning Roe [v. Wade],” said Rachel Sussman, national director of state policy and advocacy at Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

The dispute is being heard by the state’s Administrative Hearing Commission, and a single commissioner will consider the case in a capacity similar to that of a judge. The early part of this week is expected to make the state’s case, with a response from Planned Parenthood coming later in the week, Planned Parenthood says.

Abortion opponents also are watching the case closely. Maureen Ferguson, a senior fellow with The Catholic Association, said states have a right to regulate clinics and if clinics fail to meet those standards, “then they ought to be shut down.”

Ferguson noted that Planned Parenthood is opening a large new clinic to provide abortions across the state line in Illinois, a state with less restrictive abortion laws.

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