Missouri’s last remaining abortion clinic will stay open, at least temporarily.
A judge on Friday issued a temporary restraining order keeping the clinic open.
Without such an order, it would have been forced to stop offering abortions after today due to a dispute with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
The department had accused the clinic of unspecified “deficient practices” and refused to renew its license unless all physicians submitted to interviews.
But Planned Parenthood, which operates the clinic, was concerned the interviews could lead to criminal prosecution.
The organization filed suit this week and, today, a judge in the Circuit Court of St. Louis allowed the clinic to keep offering abortion services while the case proceeds.
Another hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, June 4.
“This is a huge sigh of relief for the many patients who need access to safe, legal abortion in Missouri,” said Dr. Colleen McNicholas, an OB-GYN with Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, in a statement.
However, she added, “tomorrow we go back to work to ensure access to abortion does not go dark at the last health center that provides abortion in Missouri.”
Abortion opponents have scored big victories in Missouri, with a ban on abortion at eight weeks of pregnancy recently signed by Gov. Mike Parson.
The governor also warned the court earlier this week that it would be “reckless” to allow the clinic to stay open.
Though the clinic will keep providing abortions for now, its battle is far from over.
The current dispute began in March, when state officials started an audit of the clinic, Sabrina Tavernise reports at the New York Times.
In the process, officials said they had found “deficient practices” and that all physicians at the clinic would have to submit to an interview.
The state said consequences of the interview could include “criminal proceedings,” a clinic spokesperson told CBS.
Planned Parenthood said it was not clear what “deficient practices” the state objected to.
Planned Parenthood said state officials could interview two physicians at the clinic who are full-time employees of Planned Parenthood, but five medical residents who are not Planned Parenthood employees declined to be interviewed.
On Tuesday, the clinic had reached “an impasse” with the state, according to Planned Parenthood’s head of litigation. Its license to provide abortions is set to expire at the end of this week.
So Planned Parenthood filed suit, and a hearing was set for Thursday to determine whether the clinic could continue offering abortions while the case was in court.
Parson “has made it clear that his goal is to ban abortion care in the state of Missouri, and today’s comments confirmed that this is exactly what this is all about,” said Dr. Leana Wen, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a statement after the press conference. “Our health center meets the highest standard of care.”
Abortion-rights supporters have been showing support for the clinic this week, attending a rally in downtown St. Louis on Thursday as well as holding a sit-in at a building in the city where Gov. Parson has an office.