A legal battle is raging that could lead to the end of abortions being performed at the only abortion clinic currently operating in Missouri.
The state license allowing the Planned Parenthood Reproductive to perform abortions at the St. Louis clinic expires at midnight Friday, according to CBS News. Currently, the state and Planned Parenthood are at an impasse over concerns the state expressed to the clinic.
However, Planned Parenthood has filed a lawsuit trying to avert closure.
A hearing on the lawsuit has been scheduled for Wednesday.
If the clinic closes, Missouri would be the first state without a functioning abortion clinic since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, CBS reported.
Lisa Cox, a spokeswoman for Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services, told CBS the clinic’s license was “under review.” She did not respond to other questions.
Planned Parenthood officials, however, had a lot to say.
“This is not a drill. This is not a warning. This is a real public health crisis,” Dr. Leana Wen, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told CBS.
“This a chilling warning for all of us that we are in a public health crisis. Today it’s Missouri, tomorrow it could be all of America.”
Some noted the regulations could achieve what anti-abortion laws passed by several states this spring are seeking.
Bonyen Lee-Gilmore, director of State Media Campaigns for Planned Parenthood, said the impasse is the result of a “weaponized inspections process,” according to NPR.
“This didn’t happen overnight. It’s been a slow drip of restriction after restriction, and we’ve been warning for some time that abortion access is on the line,” Lee-Gilmore said.
Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, told The Washington Post in a statement:
“What is happening in Missouri shows that politicians don’t have to outlaw abortion to push it out of reach entirely.”
A state audit that began this spring resulted in the state telling the clinic it needed to interview the seven physicians who provide abortions at the clinic, The New York Times reported.
Two of the clinic’s doctors offered to be interviewed, but the state has said it wants to interview all seven, according to The Times.
In its letter, according to CBS News, the Department of Health wrote that it could not “complete our investigation until it interviews the physicians involved in the care provided in the potential deficient practices,” and that “the investigation needs to be completed and any deficiencies resolved before the expiration of [the clinic’s] license on May 31, 2019.”
“This is harassment and attempted intimidation of doctors at the highest levels of government,” Dr. Colleen McNicholas, a physician at the clinic, told The New York Times.
Helene Krasnoff, head of litigation at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told The Times the state has refused to cooperate.
“They refused to discuss the scope of the interview,” she said. “And when asked about whether or not it could lead to criminal referrals, they have said, basically, that’s not off the table.”
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