Last abortion clinic in Missouri expects to be shut down this week

On Friday, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed a bill that criminalizes abortions in the state after eight weeks of pregnancy.

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By Janelle Griffith

The last remaining abortion clinic in Missouri says it expects to be shut down this week, which would effectively end legal abortion in the state. Unless a court intervenes, the closing would make Missouri the only state in the country without an abortion clinic, according to Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood said the state health department "is refusing to renew" its St. Louis clinic's license to provide abortions. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, which wants to require several doctors who perform abortions at the center to submit to questioning as a condition of renewing the license, did not immediately return a request for comment.

"This is not a drill," said Dr. Leana Wen, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "This is not a warning. This is a real public health crisis."

Planned Parenthood representatives said the organization filed a lawsuit in state court Tuesday asking for a restraining order after the license expires Friday. A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

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"If Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis health center cannot provide abortion care, this will be the first time since 1974 that safe, legal abortion care will be inaccessible to people in an entire state," Wen said.

Wen said the closure would have an impact on more than 1 million women of reproductive age in Missouri.

"This has nothing to do with medicine and everything to do with politics," Wen said.

The expected closure comes amid a wave of anti-abortion laws being passed by state legislatures.

On Friday, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed a bill that criminalizes abortions in the state after eight weeks of pregnancy.

Under the Missouri law that is set to take effect Aug. 28, doctors who violate the eight-week cutoff — which is often before many women are aware they are pregnant — could face five to 15 years in prison. Women who terminate their pregnancies cannot be prosecuted.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri is seeking a statewide vote on the new law. The ACLU said Tuesday that it has submitted a referendum petition to the secretary of state's office as a first step to block and potentially repeal the law that Parson signed last week.

If the petition is approved for circulation, the ACLU would need to gather more than 100,000 signatures to block the law from taking effect and force a referendum in 2020.