/Missouri could become 1st state with no abortion clinic: This is not a drill

Missouri could become 1st state with no abortion clinic: This is not a drill

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The realities of a recent string of abortion restrictions may become even clearer in Missouri on Friday as the state threatens to close its last remaining abortion clinic.

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Planned Parenthood officials announced they are filing a lawsuit Tuesday for a restraining order to stop the state from closing their one clinic in the state, which is located in St. Louis.

“This is not a drill. This is not a warning. This is real and it is a public health crisis,” Dr. Leana Wen, the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said on a call with reporters Tuesday.

The license for the Planned Parenthood clinic, issued by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, is set to expire on Friday, and if it is not renewed, the clinic would have to cease operations.

Planned Parenthood officials said they applied to have the license renewed, but the Associated Press reports that Planned Parenthood pointed to state officials who reportedly said they are investigating “a large number of possible deficiencies,” though no further details were given.

PHOTO: Teresa Pettis, 21, right, greets a passerby outside the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis, Friday, May 17, 2019.Jim Salter/AP

Teresa Pettis, 21, right, greets a passerby outside the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis, Friday, May 17, 2019.

The suit names the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), Randall Williams, the director of the DHSS, and Gov. Mike Parson as defendants. ABC News’ requests for comment from both the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and Governor Mike Parson’s office were not immediately returned.

Planned Parenthood officials said on the call that the state asked to interview all seven of the clinic’s physicians but would not provide any guidance on what the doctors will be asked during the interviews. The Planned Parenthood officials said the interviews could lead to the doctors losing their medical licenses or possible criminal prosecution.

The Associated Press reports that two of the clinic’s seven doctors have agreed to be interviewed, and that will happen Tuesday.

Wen said if the restraining order isn’t issued and the clinic loses its license, that would mean that for the “first time since 1974, the year after Roe v. Wade was passed, that safe, legal abortion care will be unavailable to an entire state.”

Colleen McNicholas, a doctor at the St. Louis clinic who was also on the Planned Parenthood call with reporters, warned that given the spread of abortion restrictions in several states in recent months, this tactic may not be limited to Missouri moving forward.

“This is the foreshadowing of what is going to happen in other states,” McNicholas said, calling the elimination of abortion providers in Missouri a “dismantling of the rights and freedoms we fought for over decades.”

PHOTO: Missouri Governor Mike Parson signs a bill banning abortion after the eighth week of pregnancy at his office in Jefferson City, Mo., May 24, 2019.Office of Missouri Governor

Missouri Governor Mike Parson signs a bill banning abortion after the eighth week of pregnancy at his office in Jefferson City, Mo., May 24, 2019.

She also said that if the clinic is closed, it would “unsurprisingly and perhaps by design” have a greater impact on lower income women who would have to travel further for an abortion.

Missouri is one of a string of states that passed abortion bans in recent months, with Gov. Parson signing the state’s 8-week ban into law last week.

As with every other abortion ban that has passed in other states recently — including Alabama and Georgia — a lawsuit filed almost immediately after the bill was signed into law stopped it from going into effect.

The lawsuit over the abortion clinic isn’t the only legal action unfolding over access to abortion in the state. The American Civil Liberties Union announced Tuesday that they are going to pursue a referendum to overturn the abortion ban.

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