- The Washington Times - Monday, October 28, 2019

A Missouri official in St. Louis on Monday opened a hearing that will determine whether the Show Me State will become the first in the nation without an abortion clinic.

Missouri’s Administrative Hearing Commission heard opening statements on whether Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region can keep its abortion license following reports of concerns during clinic inspections by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

The St. Louis facility is the only abortion clinic in the state.

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Assistant Attorney General John Bauer outlined cases of “failed abortions,” including one involving a woman who claimed five abortions and another in which the doctor failed to recognize a woman was pregnant with twins and had to schedule a second abortion.

State officials say they have sought to interview physicians involved in three “failed abortions” requiring additional surgery and another that resulted in complications threatening a pregnant person’s life.

Planned Parenthood says it can’t force medical residents no longer employed at the clinic to talk.

If Commissioner Sreenivasa Rao Dandamudi rules in favor of the state, Missouri would become the first state without a legal abortion facility since 1974, the year after the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalized the practice.

A decision from the week-long hearing isn’t expected until after February, and that ruling will be subject to judicial review.

“Planned Parenthood’s stubborn refusal to correct its gross deficiencies is the reason Missouri may soon be the first state since Roe v. Wade in 1973 to be free from abortion clinics,” said March for Life President Jeanne Mancini. “Planned Parenthood should put the safety of women before its profits — the women of Missouri deserve as much.”

Planned Parenthood did not respond to a request for comment.

On June 21, William Koebel, licenses administrator for the health department, wrote to Cathy Williams, interim president and chief executive of Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, to deny renewal of the clinic’s abortion license.

Following state inspections, Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region submitted many corrective measures that satisfied regulators, including improving medical records compliance and physician continuity.

But, Mr. Koebel noted that clinic officials provided no corrective measures for a host of other deficiencies and even refused to require patients to undergo pelvic examinations on the same day they received pre-surgical abortion counseling — a violation of state law.

“Because RHS refuses to accept these grave instances as deficiencies, the Department has no assurances that such instances would not be repeated,” wrote Mr. Koebel.

Pro-choice protesters gathered outside the courthouse in St. Louis.

A federal judge has blocked Missouri’s ban on abortions beginning after detection of a fetal heartbeat that was signed into law earlier this year by Gov. Mike Parson. A spokeswoman for Mr. Parson declined Monday to provide comment, citing pending litigation.

The number of abortion clinics in Missouri has fluctuated in the last decade, with as many as four facilities providing abortions as recently as 2017, according to the pro-choice research nonprofit Guttmacher Institute. Many pregnant people in Missouri seek abortion providers in other states.

Last week, Planned Parenthood opened a 18,000-square-foot facility in Fairview Heights, Illinois, 12 miles east of St. Louis, to address increasing demand from Missourians.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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