The Slatest

Missouri Could Become the First State Without an Abortion Clinic Since Roe v. Wade

A demonstrator displays a sign during an abortion rights rally in front of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri.
Demonstrators rally in support of abortion rights on May 21 in St. Louis. Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images

The last abortion clinic in Missouri is on the verge of shutting down, threatening to make the state the first in the country to have no legal abortion access since Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood said in a statement Tuesday.

According to Planned Parenthood, Missouri is “refusing to renew” the one remaining clinic’s license, which expires Friday. If it is not renewed by then, Missouri will be the first state without a functioning abortion clinic since 1973, the year of the Supreme Court decision.

According to CBS News, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services alerted Planned Parenthood on May 20 to three issues that it said could affect its license. Two days later, the organization said it would add another pelvic exam for patients and change their protocol for providing state-mandated counseling in order to satisfy the first two demands from the agency. But the organization rejected the third, a request to interview doctors who provide care at the clinic, saying it could only offer interviews with the two doctors who are employed by Planned Parenthood, as outside doctors who provide services at the center had not agreed to interviews. (Planned Parenthood said the state meant to “interrogate” doctors as an “intimidation tactic,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

A Planned Parenthood spokeswoman said the organization filed a lawsuit Tuesday in an attempt to keep the clinic open. In the filing, Planned Parenthood argued that Missouri is “unlawfully conditioning” the renewal of the license on the completion of an investigation of a patient complaint that hasn’t been shared with the organization, according to the Post-Dispatch.

If the clinic closes, women seeking abortions would have to travel to Kansas or Illinois. According to CBS News, several of the state’s other clinics previously closed down when the state implemented requirements for pelvic exams for pill-administered abortions, which Planned Parenthood argued are unnecessarily invasive. The organization refused, and the state went from five abortion providers in 2008 to just the one today.

Missouri recently passed one of the country’s strictest abortion laws, joining five other states in a spate of near-complete bans on the service. On Friday, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed a bill that bans abortions after eight weeks, with exceptions only for medical emergencies and not for rape or incest. While women would not be prosecuted under the law, doctors could be, and those found in violation could face five to 15 years in prison.

On Tuesday morning, the ACLU of Missouri filed a notice that it would seek a referendum to repeal the law. It has until Aug. 28—the date the law is scheduled to go into effect—to collect 100,000 signatures. If successful, the law would be put on hold until the 2020 election, at which point it would be placed on the ballot for a simple yes-or-no vote.