Monday, a Missouri circuit court judge granted Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region a preliminary injunction, allowing the clinic to continue providing abortion services; this injunction will keep Missouri’s last clinic that provides abortion services to remain open for the time being. The judge ordered Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services to make a decision regarding the clinic’s license by June 21st. The preliminary injunction will remain in effect until the court issues a new ruling.
Dr. Leana Wen, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, stated that “Today’s decision is a clear victory for our patients – and for people across Missouri – but the threat to safe, legal abortion in the state of Missouri and beyond is far from over. We’ve seen just how closely anti-health politicians came to ending abortion care for an entire state. We are in a state of emergency for women’s health in America. In Missouri, and across the country, Planned Parenthood will do whatever it take to combat the extreme, dangerous, and unconstitutional efforts by politicians to ban access to health care including safe, legal abortion. We will never stop fighting for our patients.”
Dr. Colleen McNicholas, OB-GYN at the Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region stated that “while this is a welcome relief for patients and providers at Planned Parenthood, this fight is far from over. Abortion access in Missouri is hanging on by a thread and for many, politicians like Gov. Parson have already created an impossible landscape for patients who need access to abortion. Abortion remains one of the most inappropriately regulated health care services. Until that changes, access to care in our state will depend on where you live and how much money you earn. We are too close to losing our rights and freedoms and we will not back down today, tomorrow, or ever.”
Reproductive health advocates, patients, and doctors were concern that Missouri may become the first state without a clinic that provides abortion services after the Missouri health department refused to renew Planned Parenthood’s license to perform abortions, which expired last week. The license expired because of what Planned Parenthood argues are politically motivated and arbitrary regulations targeted at the clinic and Planned Parenthood sued the state for a restraining order to allow abortion services to be performed after the license expired.
The expiration of Planned Parenthood’s license in St. Louis came after Missouri governor Mike Parson signed a law that criminalizes abortion after eight weeks, before most people know they are pregnant. Under this law, there are no exceptions for rape or incest and doctors that perform abortions may be charged with a felony offence, service prison time, and lose their medical licenses.
Throughout the South, abortion rights have been under attack this legislative session: Louisiana passed a bill in May that would allow Louisiana voters to decide whether or not to change the state’s constitution to further restrict abortion access at the ballot box this October. The next week, Louisiana’s governor signed another anti-abortion bill banning abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected. A similar fetal heartbeat bill passed just weeks earlier in Georgia, effectively banning abortion after six weeks. In Alabama, the most restrictive anti-abortion bill in the country was passed in early May, which bans abortion even in cases of rape and/or incest, unless the woman’s life is in danger, and makes performing an abortion a felony.
There are five other states that only have one clinic that provides abortion services: Kentucky, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, and West Virginia. In the past few weeks, multiple states have passed anti-abortion legislation that severely limits safe and accessible abortions, such as Georgia and Alabama.
Media Resources: Planned Parenthood Press Release 6/10/19; Feminist Newswire 6/7/19, 5/31/19, 5/16/19, 5/7/19, 5/3/19; NYT 6/5/19