Judge blocks Missouri from pulling clinic's abortion license

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COLUMBIA (AP) — A federal judge has temporarily blocked Missouri's health department from revoking the abortion license held by a Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia.

The temporary restraining order issued Monday by U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey is set to expire Wednesday evening, following another hearing.

Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri filed a federal lawsuit Monday to preserve the Columbia clinic's abortion facility license from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

The department had planned to revoke the license Monday evening, leaving the St. Louis Planned Parenthood the only facility in the state where abortions can be performed.

The Columbia clinic last week stopped non-surgical abortions induced with a pill because physician Colleen McNicholas no longer has privileges with the University of Missouri Health Care system. The system's medical staff voted to discontinue the refer and follow privileges McNicholas held amid a legislative investigation of abortion.

Planned Parenthood of Kansas & Mid-Missouri CEO Laura McQuade said the clinic saw a "dramatic increase" in care, citing somewhere between 80 and 100 abortions performed during the four month period from August through November in which McNicholas performed medication abortions on a two day per month schedule.

"Access to this service is needed. Women are traveling hundreds of miles to get to Kansas or St. Louis," said McQuade. "Missouri already has the highest burden to abortion care in the U.S. due to 72 hour waiting period."

MU's Interim Chancellor Hank Foley announced his decision Monday not to restore the refer and follow privileges that allow abortions to be performed in Columbia's facility.

Chancellor Foley's decision goes into effect Tuesday.