Missouri abortion clinic gets extension, will remain open through August

Missouri abortion clinic gets extension, will remain open through August
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An administrative panel on Friday ruled that Missouri's lone abortion clinic can stay open until at least August while a dispute over its license is settled.

Missouri's Administrative Hearing Commission issued a stay allowing the Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis region to continue performing abortions without a license.

“We are relieved to have this last-minute reprieve, which means patients can continue accessing safe, legal abortion at Planned Parenthood in St. Louis for the time being," said Dr. Colleen McNicholas, OB-GYN at Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis region.

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State health officials announced last Friday it would not renew the license, citing alleged violations of state laws.

But a judge ruled the clinic could stay open until Friday when the administrative panel was expected to weigh in on the case. 

Planned Parenthood sued the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) earlier this month for making a renewal of its abortion license contingent on interviews with doctors who have worked at the clinic. 

Planned Parenthood said the doctors were not considered official staff of the organization and could not be compelled to interview. But the department would not budge, and said it needed to complete the interviews as part of an ongoing investigation into potential violations of state law. 

Its license officially expired May 31, but a court order allowed the clinic to continue providing abortions until the dispute was resolved. 

A judge last week finally booted the case to the state's administrative panel. 

The next hearing is Aug. 1. 

Administrative Hearing Commissioner Sreenivasa Rao Dandamudi wrote Friday that Planned Parenthood is likely to succeed in its arguments because interviews aren't required for license renewals. 

"Because DHSS relies substantially on the lack of these interviews as grounds for denial, we find there is a likelihood that Petitioner will succeed in its claim," Dandamudi wrote, according to The Associated Press. 

If the clinic were to close, Missouri would become the first state in more than 50 years without an abortion clinic.