Abortions can continue at clinic, judge rules

Abortions can continue at clinic, judge rules

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A St. Louis judge issued on Monday another order  to keep Missouri’s only abortion clinic – Planned Parenthood’s clinic at 4251 Forest Park Avenue – operating while a fight over the facility’s license to provide those services plays out in court.

Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer granted Planned Parenthood’s request for a preliminary injunction, which extends his earlier order to temporarily block the state from allowing the St. Louis facility’s license to lapse. The courtroom win for abortion-rights advocates comes after a string of setbacks in legislatures around the U.S.

The state health department declined in May to renew the clinic’s license to perform abortion procedures, citing concerns about patient safety, “failed surgical abortions” and legal violations.

Stelzer’s ruling on Monday ordered the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to decide on Planned Parenthood’s application to renew its license by June 21.

Dr. Leana Wen, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, called the ruling “a clear victory for our patients – and for people across Missouri,” but said the threat against legal abortion remained.

“We’ve seen just how closely anti-health politicians came to ending abortion care for an entire state,” Wen said in a statement. “We are in a state of emergency for women’s health in America.”

Phone and email messages seeking comment from Gov. Mike Parson’s office and the health department were not immediately returned.

Stelzer’s ruling said he wasn’t determining whether the license should be approved or denied. But the judge noted that one issue in dispute was whether the health department can simply allow the abortion clinic’s license to lapse without taking any action.

“The Court does not believe that an ‘official action’ can include non-action,” Stelzer wrote.

Parson, a Republican, signed legislation on May 24 to ban abortions at or beyond eight weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions for medical emergencies but not for rape or incest.