Missouri to begin hearing on state's last abortion clinic

Missouri to begin hearing on state's last abortion clinic

A hearing over Missouri’s last standing abortion clinic will begin Monday to determine whether it can keep its license to provide abortions.

Administrative Hearing Commissioner Sreenivasa Rao Dandamudi will preside over the hearing as an “independent trial judge,” The Associated Press reported, citing a commission official.

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Missouri would become the first state since 1974, the year after the Roe v. Wade decision, to not have a functioning abortion clinic, if the clinic is shut down. 

The Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis region had its license officially expire at the end of May. A court ordered the clinic to continue providing abortions until the dispute with the state health department is resolved. 

Planned Parenthood has been fighting the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services for months to keep the clinic open after state health officials announced it would not renew the license, citing alleged violations of state laws. 

The state alleges that during an inspection in March, investigators cited three “failed abortions” that required additional surgeries and life-threatening complications for the mother, according to the AP. 

The Administrative Hearing Commission was set to take up the case in August, but it was pushed back to begin this week. The hearing is expected to last five days, the AP reported. A ruling isn’t expected until February at the earliest, according to AP. 

The health department said the renewal of the abortion license is 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 the ongoing investigation into the alleged violations. 

The dispute over the lone clinic comes as Missouri joined several states this year to pass restrictive abortion bans. Republican Gov. Mike Parson signed a bill in May banning abortion after eight weeks with no exceptions for rape and incest. 

A federal judge temporarily blocked the abortion ban in August. Similar bills in Kentucky and Mississippi have also been blocked by courts this year. 

A Planned Parenthood clinic opened earlier this month just over the state line in Fairview Heights, Ill., that can provide abortion services to about 11,000 women per year.