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Missouri Refuses To Renew The License Of Its Only Abortion Clinic


Today, Missouri refused to renew the license of its only abortion clinic, but a judge says the clinic, a Planned Parenthood affiliate in St. Louis, can remain open and can keep performing abortions for now. So where does that leave things? We're joined by Eli Chen of St. Louis Public Radio. Welcome.

ELI CHEN, BYLINE: Hi. Glad to be here.

SHAPIRO: Why did the state say it would not renew the clinic's license?

CHEN: So Missouri health officials say that the clinic leaders didn't want to cooperate and that they found 30 deficiencies in inspection earlier this year and corrected just four of those. Randall Williams is the director of the Missouri department of Health & Senior Services. And he says some doctors refused to be interviewed about some patient cases. And here's him discussing that very point today in Jefferson City, our state capital.


RANDALL WILLIAMS: That would be like the FAA having a plane crash in which people got injured and investigating it and when people say, well, what - did you talk to the pilots, say, no, we didn't talk to the pilots.

SHAPIRO: Now, we know that this standoff had been going on for several weeks and went to a court. How did we get to the judge's ruling that the clinic could remain open despite not having a license?

CHEN: Yeah. So Planned Parenthood had already filed suit and obtained an injunction to keep going once it became clear that there was a dispute over the license. The judge said today that the injunction is still in effect and abortions are still available at the St. Louis clinic. And he's going to continue looking at all the legal issues and will issue another decision as soon as he can. But we don't know when that will be or what exactly he'll decide.

SHAPIRO: So the status quo continues, at least for the time being. Does Planned Parenthood consider that a win?

CHEN: Their position has been that the state is using the licensing process as a political weapon. M'Evie Mead is the head of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Missouri, and here's what she had to say this morning to reporters about the state health director, Randall Williams.


M'EVIE MEAD: He has made a debacle of this process and has dragged Missouri through shameful, shameful attention. And he has harmed many, many, many women.

CHEN: But Mead wanted everyone to know that the judge is still allowing women to get abortions at the clinic.


MEAD: Today is a victory for women to be able to access the kind of medical care that they and their health professionals need and deserve.

SHAPIRO: OK. So Planned Parenthood is framing it as a win, but it is a temporary win until the judge decides. Do we know how long this will continue and how long this clinic will be under a cloud of uncertainty?

CHEN: It's unclear how long this really could go on for because the judge could decide the state can't do this. He might decide that another state body should get involved in the licensing issue or he might decide to hear the full lawsuit himself. It could be any number of things. And, Ari, there is another major development that happened. The state had wanted all abortion clinics to conduct two mandatory pelvic exams before an abortion, but Planned Parenthood pushed back and has been saying that's been really invasive and traumatic and unnecessary. And today, the Missouri health director conceded a bit on that point. He said he would allow just one pelvic exam on the day of the operation if the doctor gave a medical reason.

SHAPIRO: That's Eli Chen of St. Louis Public Radio. Thanks very much.

CHEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eli Chen