The lone abortion provider in Missouri is in danger of losing its license by the end of this week. If it comes to pass, Missouri would become the first state where abortion is inaccessible since around the time of Roe v. Wade.
State health department officials have said they do not intend to renew the St. Louis Planned Parenthood facility’s license to provide abortion care when it expires on May 31. Planned Parenthood has filed a lawsuit challenging the plan.
“This is not a drill,” Planned Parenthood President Dr. Leana Wen told reporters during a phone call, according to TIME. “This is not a warning. This is real, and it is public health crisis.”
On Wednesday, Missouri Governor Mike Parson said that the clinic’s license would be renewed if Planned Parenthood corrects “deficiencies” uncovered by state investigators.
Last week, Parson signed a restrictive abortion bill that criminalizes the procedure during and after the eighth week of pregnancy, but he maintained that the clinic’s licensing issue is not “a pro-life issue,” according to TIME. Parson said the clinic had “a series of incidents that raised concerns about quality of care,” including failed surgical abortions and at least one complication that required emergency surgery.
Documents provided to CBS News by Planned Parenthood provide some insight into the dispute. According to the documents, state health officials alerted Planned Parenthood on May 20 to three issues that could impact license renewal.
Planned Parenthood said it could address two of the issues: adjusting its providers of state-mandated counseling and adding an additional pelvic exam for abortion patients. It said a third request — that the health department interview seven physicians who provide care at the clinic — was beyond its control. Planned Parenthood said it could offer interviews with only the two who are its employees; the other five are residents in training and not employed by Planned Parenthood.
The residents declined to be interviewed for the state’s investigation.
The health department said it could not “complete our investigation until it interviews the physicians involved in the care provided in the potential deficient practices,” CBS News reported.
Wen said the interviews could result in the doctors’ losing their medical licenses or being subject to criminal penalties.
“I can use no other word to describe what is happening other than the weaponization of the licensing process,” Wen said. “This has nothing to do with medicine, and everything to do with politics.”