Missouri is down to a single abortion clinic in the entire state — a lone Planned Parenthood in St. Louis — but on Friday, a judge announced that the state’s health department ruled against renewing the clinic’s license, which was set to expire on May 31. The move, as CNN underscores, will make Missouri “the first state without an abortion clinic in almost 50 years.”
“A judge had ordered the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to decide by Friday whether it would renew a license for the clinic, Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region,” CNN reports. The department’s ruling was revealed in court Friday by Judge Michael Stelzer, who said that the clinic will be allowed to remain open until the court issues a further order.
Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of abortions in the U.S. and an organization that receives over $500 million a year of taxpayer money, sued the state over the health department’s refusal to renew its license.
Planned Parenthood’s M’Evie Mead expressed gratitude Friday for the judge’s decision to allow the clinic to remain open, at least temporarily. “We will continue to fight for our ability to deliver high-quality, patient-centered health care, and that includes the full range of reproductive health care,” said Mead, CNN reports.
This year, several states have made significant changes to their abortion laws, with multiple blue states, including New York and most recently Rhode Island, enacting laws making abortion legal up until birth in cases where it would protect the “health” of the mother. At the same time, red states are clamping down on abortion in a series of “heartbeat bills.” Along with Alabama, Georgia, and Ohio, Missouri passed a law this year restricting abortion significantly.
Missouri’s House Bill 126, signed into law in May, limits abortion to up to 8 weeks or in cases where the mother faces serious medical emergencies, including the potential of permanent injury. The law does not allow for exemptions in cases of rape or incest and it does not include among the valid reasons for an abortion after 8 weeks the vaguely defined “health” of the mother, as in many of the pro-choice abortion laws.
Missouri’s decision against Planned Parenthood comes just two days after Rhode Island’s Democratic governor passed a law that Democrats billed as ensuring the “status quo” should Roe v. Wade be overturned, but which opponents have condemned as extreme.
“The new law says the state will not restrict the right to an abortion prior to fetal viability [24 weeks] or afterward if an abortion is necessary for the health or life of the mother,” The Associated Press reported Wednesday. “It repeals older state abortion laws deemed unconstitutional by the courts. The bill was approved Wednesday in the Senate 21 to 17 after two hours of debate, then in the House 45 to 29 after a half hour debate.”
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest provider of abortions, performing over 300,000 abortions per year (about half the total number of abortions in the country per year). As highlighted in a Heritage Foundation report last year, a study released in 2018 found that Planned Parenthood receives an average of over $500 million of taxpayer funds every year.
While Planned Parenthood describes itself as delivering “high-quality, patient-centered health care,” its services other than abortion declined in recent years. “The organization’s 2015-2016 report revealed that Planned Parenthood served 100,000 fewer women in 2015-2016 compared to 2014-2015,” the conservative foundation reported. “Their number of health centers and affiliates declined, and they performed fewer cancer screenings and prevention services. They also performed fewer breast examinations, fewer HPV vaccinations, and provided prenatal services to 8,000 fewer women than the previous year.”