Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region has until the end of this week to seek administrative remedies before the court’s preliminary injunction is lifted and it can no longer perform abortions at Reproductive Health Services.
In his ruling June 24 on Monday, 22nd Circuit Court Judge Michael F. Stelzer ordered: “THEREFORE, it is Ordered and Decreed that the Preliminary Injunction entered on June 10, 2019 is extended in part. Petitioner's license shall not expire and shall remain in effect until June 28, 2019 @ 5 PM in order to allow Petitioner to seek review and injunctive relief from the Administrative Hearing Commission. Thereafter, on June 28, 2019 @ 5 PM, the Preliminary Injunction issued by this court shall be dissolved. FURTHER, Counts II - VI are dismissed without prejudice for failure to exhaust administrative remedies and all other remaining motions are denied as moot. Each party to bear their own costs.”
Planned Parenthood said the judge’s order gives them the chance to ask the Administrative Hearing Commission to reverse the Department of Health and Senior Services’ license denial, but it “creates uncertainty for the patients” it serves.
“Abortion care is health care and patients in need of this service shouldn’t have to wait day by day wondering if they can access care tomorrow, nor should they have ever had to undergo invasive exams that have nothing to do with their health,” Dr. Colleen McNicholas, a Planned Parenthood obstetrician-gynecologist stated, following Monday’s ruling. “We will continue this fight in the Administrative Hearing Commission, and we won’t stop until every person can access the care they need when and where they need it.”
Before a court hearing in St. Louis on Friday, June 21, the State of Missouri notified Planned Parenthood it is denying a renewal license to perform abortions at Reproductive Health Services in St. Louis, citing “unprecedented lack of cooperation, failure to meet basic standards of patient care, and refusal to comply with state law and regulations protecting women’s health and safety that resulted in numerous serious and extensive unresolved deficiencies including multiple that involved life-threatening conditions for patients.”
Randall Williams, MD, Missouri state health director and an obstetrician-gynecologist, told reporters last Friday following the court hearing that only four of 30 sited deficiencies had been addressed by Planned Parenthood from its onsite inspection by regulators in March. Williams described three cases from the statement of deficiencies – one patient who had three abortions in three days; another patient who had two abortions in five weeks following a failed surgical abortion; and a third patient who was transferred to Planned Parenthood from a hospital who was critically ill and had lost half of her blood volume. Williams said she would have been better served at a hospital. He said further investigation by the state was hampered by lack of cooperation.
“In all our years, and all the things we regulate, it is unprecedented that the three doctors that were involved in the cases I just sited to you, refused to cooperate,” Williams said. “It’s made it a very difficult job for our regulators – in fact, unprecedented, to investigate the quality of care if the people who took care of the patient won’t talk to you.”
He said it was the state’s duty to prevent future harm to make sure there is not something systematically going on that caused such outcomes. He said 3,000 patients had abortions at Planned Parenthood.
Also on Friday, however, Williams did retract a state mandate that forced women to undergo an extra pelvic exam before having a surgical abortion. Planned Parenthood had contended the extra exam was medically unnecessary and had refused to continue putting its patients through the second exam.
“I am issuing an emergency rule today – that Planned Parenthood can defer the pelvic exam to the day of surgery, if, in their estimation, using their clinical judgement, that they think there’s a medical reason that they should do that...,” Williams told reporters, “because we don’t want patients having two pelvic exams.”
In Planned Parenthood’s response on Monday, she stated, “The Department of Health and Senior Services Director, Randall Williams, has already proven himself to be harmful to Missourians,” McNicholas said. “His admission that he forced women to undergo medically unnecessary pelvic exams is proof that this state is on a destructive path against Missouri women.”
Without administrative redress, Missouri becomes the first state in the nation where women cannot have a legal abortion. Last month, Angie Postal, vice president of Education, Policy and Community Engagement for Advocates of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region of Southwest Missouri, told The American prior to the May 31 license original expiration date thatit will help Missouri women get to Illinois clinics to obtain needed surgical or non-surgical abortions.