Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis region will continue operation as Missouri’s sole provider of abortion services, for the time being. Judge Michael Stelzer’s ruling on Monday, June 10, granted Planned Parenthood’s request for a preliminary injunction and gives the State of Missouri about a week and a-half to decide whether it will terminate the clinic’s operating license.
The judgment reads, in part: “Petitioner's license shall not expire and shall remain in effect until further order of this court. Further, respondent Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services shall issue a decision on petitioner's application for renewal of its license without undue delay but no later than Friday, June 21, 2019.”
“Today’s decision is a clear victory for our patients — and for people across Missouri — but the threat to safe, legal abortion in the state of Missouri and beyond is far from over,” stated Dr. Lena Wen, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
“We’ve seen just how closely anti-health politicians came to ending abortion care for an entire state. We are in a state of emergency for women’s health in America. In Missouri, and across the country, Planned Parenthood will do whatever it takes to combat the extreme, dangerous, and unconstitutional efforts by politicians to ban access to health care, including safe, legal abortion. We will never stop fighting for our patients.”
A conference is set on the matter for Friday, June 21 at 9 a.m.
“For patients, that means for now, they can continue to make decisions about their bodies, lives, and future in their home state,” stated obstetrician-gynecologist Colleen McNicholas, D.O., of Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region.
“While this is welcome relief for patients and providers at Planned Parenthood, this fight is far from over. Abortion access in Missouri is hanging on by a thread. And, for many, politicians like Gov. Parson have already created an impossible landscape for patients who need access to abortion. Abortion remains one of the most inappropriately regulated health care services. Until that changes, access to care in our state will depend on where you live and how much money you earn. We are too close to losing our rights and freedoms, and we will not back down today, tomorrow, or ever.”
A restraining order kept the license from expiring on its May 31 expiration date until Monday’s ruling on the injunction. While Parson sited “deficiencies” at the clinic as putting women’s health at risk (including reported botched surgical abortions) as concerns during for license renewal, Dr. McNicholas told The American it’s a “fearmongering” tactic.
“Planned Parenthood’s top priority has always been the health of our patients, and ensuring they get the best care available,” Dr. McNicholas said. “This diversionary tactic by Gov. Parson’s Department of Health and Senior Services proves what we’ve long said – the department is treating Planned Parenthood differently in the inspection process. Planned Parenthood has bent over backwards to cooperate with DHSS, but the agency refuses to engage in good faith.”
Planned Parenthood stated that it plans to continue focusing on caring for every person who walks in its doors and that will remain its priority – “no matter what distraction tactics the state chooses to deploy next.”
Ashcroft rejects abortion ban for popular vote a third time
On Tuesday, June 21, Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft rejected a third referendum petition to put HB 126, which enacted a ban on abortions after eight weeks with no exceptions for women who are victims of rape or incest, before the voters Ashcroft cited as his reason an “emergency clause” that put the law into effect immediately when it was signed on May 24 by Gov. Mike Parson.
“Approving a referendum petition in which a portion of the law is already in effect would set a new precedent in Missouri,” Ashcroft stated. “Although the Missouri Constitution (Article III, Section 49) states the people may approve or reject by referendum any ‘act’ of the general assembly, never in Missouri history has a secretary of state approved a referendum petition in which a portion of the law was already in effect. Additionally, a secretary of state has never approved a referendum of only a portion of an act of the legislature.”