DOWNTOWN – A St. Louis judge is scheduled to hear arguments Tuesday on whether or not the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services can pull the license of Planned Parenthood’s abortion clinic in the Central West End. The move would make Missouri the first state since 1974 to not have an operating abortion clinic.
St. Louis Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer issued an order Friday to keep the clinic operating over the objections of state health officials, delivering abortion-rights advocates a courtroom victory after a string of setbacks in state legislatures around the U.S.
Stelzer said Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis clinic can continue providing abortions despite the Missouri health department’s refusal to renew its license due to a variety of alleged patient safety issues. He said the temporary restraining order was necessary “to preserve the status quo and prevent irreparable injury” to Planned Parenthood.
The protests in St. Louis were loud and immediate when health officials signaled their refusal to renew the clinic’s license. A St. Louis alderwoman and members of the local board of Planned Parenthood were arrested Thursday during one protest against abortion policies being implemented by Missouri lawmakers and, now, a state agency.
Looking eerily similar to just two days prior, a crowd gathered in Luther Ely Square at the Arch for a rally in response to the announcement that the Planned Parenthood clinic at 4251 Forest Park Avenue might be losing its license to perform abortions at the end of the day on Friday.
It was actually a march after the rally that led to the arrests of Alderwoman Megan Green, 15th Ward, and members of the Planned Parenthood board. The group headed toward the courtyard of the Wainwright Building, 709 Chestnut Street, which houses state offices, where they attempted to conduct a sit-in. They were ordered by police to disperse, and when they refused, they were arrested.
Planned Parenthood’s Central West End location is the last abortion clinic in the state. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services’ refusal to renew the license would in effect make it impossible to get an abortion in Missouri, months ahead of the abortion bill set to go into effect in August, which bans abortion after eight weeks. That law is almost certain to be delayed by a court challenge. Meanwhile, the regulatory move by health officials is unrelated to the controversial legislation.
Led by Pamela Merritt, co-founder of the organization Reproaction, local speakers from Planned Parenthood as well as others including activist the Rev. Darryl Gray and performance and music artist Amanda Palmer took the stage to call attendees of the rally to action.
Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit on May 28 asking for a temporary order that would keep its license from expiring at the end of the month. Stelzer set his hearing for Tuesday.
Check out pictures and video from the rally below.