Hearing begins on fate of Missouri's lone abortion clinic

2 months 3 weeks 3 days ago Monday, October 28 2019 Oct 28, 2019 Monday, October 28, 2019 3:12:00 PM CDT October 28, 2019 in News
By: The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Patient safety at Missouri's only abortion clinic is the point of contention at a state administrative hearing that will decide if the clinic can remain open.

Opening statements and testimony began Monday before a commissioner with the Missouri Administrative Hearing Commission. At issue is the state health department's effort to revoke the license for Planned Parenthood's clinic in St. Louis.

The state said concerns arose from inspections in March.

Assistant Attorney General John Sauer outlined cases of "failed abortions," including one where a woman had to have up to five procedures to complete the abortion, and another where the doctor failed to recognize that a patient was pregnant with twins, requiring a second procedure to remove the second fetus.

A ruling isn't expected until February at the earliest.

Missouri officials have asked St. Louis police for heightened security since the licensing issue has generated protests from those on both sides of the debate.

Missouri would become the first state since 1974, the year after the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, without a functioning abortion clinic if the license revocation is allowed.

The battle also comes as abortion rights supporters raise concerns that conservative-led states, including Missouri, are attempting to end abortion through tough new laws and tighter regulation.

The health department has sought to interview physicians involved in those abortions, including medical residents who no longer work there. Planned Parenthood has said it can't force them to talk and that the state's concerns were addressed long ago. Attorneys for the health department wrote in legal filings to the commission that physicians' refusal to talk "presents the final, critical obstacle."

Missouri is among several states to pass new restrictions on abortions in the hope that the increasingly conservative U.S. Supreme Court will eventually overturn Roe v. Wade. Republican Gov. Mike Parson signed legislation in May banning abortions at or beyond eight weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions for medical emergencies but not for rape or incest.

A federal judge in August temporarily blocked implementation of the law until the legal challenge plays out in court, which could take several months.

While the Missouri case unfolded, Planned Parenthood quietly built a new abortion clinic in Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis to meet the demand for abortions from Missouri residents.

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