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Abortion Opponents Want Fairview Heights To Stop Planned Parenthood From Opening Clinic

Oct 9, 2019
Anti-abortion groups rallied Wednesday outside of the new Planned Parenthood clinic in Fairview Heights. The clinic will offer medicinal and surgical abortions when it opens. This comes as St. Louis' clinic may lose its license. 10/9/19
Derik Holtmann | Belleville News-Democrat

Between an iron fence and temporary barricades while holding signs that said “Planned Parenthood hurts women,” “Stop Abortion Now” and “Shut them down,” demonstrators called on Fairview Heights to keep the future Planned Parenthood clinic from opening.

The narrow stretch of public right of away next to a drainage ditch did not deter the crowd of hundreds of people who rallied Wednesday outside the new Planned Parenthood clinic in Fairview Heights that will open later this month.

New Planned Parenthood Abortion Clinic In Fairview Heights Was Built In Secret

Oct 2, 2019
Planned Parenthood announced a new mega center aimed to increase abortion access in Southern Illinois. It will open later this month. Oct. 2, 2019
Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood is taking a step to increase access to abortions in the metro-east and the region with a new state-of-the-art center in Fairview Heights.

Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region will expand abortion services in the new facility, providing both surgical and medication abortions. It is expected to begin seeing patients in late October.

A federal judge on Friday blocked a part of Missouri’s newly enacted abortion law banning “Down syndrome abortions” of non-viable fetuses.

Senior U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs had previously blocked the state’s ban of most pre-viability abortions. But he asked for further evidence of the number of women who would be affected by the Down syndrome prohibition.   

The Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis, which sued to overturn the law, submitted evidence that the Down syndrome ban would affect a small number of women.

A federal judge’s order blocking Missouri’s 20-week abortion ban from taking effect will remain in place while the state appeals.

Senior U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs on Wednesday denied the state’s request for a partial stay of his order, which he handed down last month.

The Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis, Missouri’s only remaining abortion provider, and its medical director, Colleen McNicholas, had challenged the constitutionality of the ban, which the legislature enacted earlier this year.

A volunteer with Coalition for Life St. Louis protests outside Planned Parenthood on Forest Park Avenue.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A federal judge has put a hold on Missouri’s eight-week abortion ban, but has left other provisions of the controversial law intact.

The parts of the law that prohibit abortions because of race, sex or Down syndrome diagnosis and updated requirements to pre-abortion counseling went into effect last week. Doctors say those new regulations victimize patients and compromise doctors’ medical ethics. 

A federal judge in Kansas City has blocked Missouri’s eight-week abortion ban from taking effect after midnight Tuesday.

Senior U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs issued a preliminary injunction blocking the law's gestational bans, while declining to block a "non-discrimination" section prohibiting abortions on the basis of race, sex or Down syndrome. 

Although not a decision on the merits, the ruling is a major victory for the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis, the only remaining abortion provider in Missouri, and its medical director, Colleen McNicholas.

Protesters with the advocacy group No Bans On Choice demonstrate against HB 126 in downtown St. Louis on Aug. 2.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 12:15 p.m. on Thursday with Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft's comments

The abortion-rights group No Bans on Choice faces an "impossible" task to collect enough signatures on a petition that would allow voters to overturn a Missouri law that bans most abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy, officials from the committee said Wednesday. 

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft on Wednesday released the wording for the ballot initiative after a months-long legal battle. 

American Civil Liberties Union representatives say it’s unlikely they would collect the 100,000 signatures they need to place a referendum on the ballot before the law goes into effect on Aug. 28.

Maia Hayes joined dozens of abortion rights advocates downtown in protesting the potential shuttering of Missouri's last abortion provider. May 30, 2019
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union are asking a federal judge to overturn a Missouri law banning most abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy. 

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Jefferson City, lawyers for the ACLU and Planned Parenthood Reproductive Health Services, the St. Louis clinic that provides abortion services, asked the court to overturn the law on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.

“Extreme legislators are really pushing to find any way possible to outlaw abortion in the state,” said Colleen McNicholas, chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri.

Planned Parenthood physician, Dr. Colleen McNicholas, stands outside the clinic in St. Louis.
File photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri has hired one of its most visible doctors as its first full-time chief medical officer.

Colleen McNicholas, who’s worked as an OB-GYN at the organization’s St. Louis clinic, started her job on July 1. As chief medical officer, she’ll oversee and coordinate medical care at Planned Parenthood clinics across the region.

Planned Parenthood supporters walked onto the Eads Bridge to drop banners with a message to Missouri Gov. Mike Parson.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 3:30 p.m. July 1 with "St. Louis on the Air" audio — Access to abortion in Missouri will continue as a state commission prepares to consider a licensing dispute over a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in St. Louis.

On Friday, a state administrative hearing commissioner extended the organization’s license until the Administrative Hearing Commission decides how to resolve Planned Parenthood’s complaint against the state Department of Health and Senior Services. The commission set a hearing for Aug. 1.

Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region is the last provider of abortion services in Missouri. It could lose its license this week.
File photo | David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Planned Parenthood will lose its license to perform abortions on Friday afternoon unless a state commission grants the clinic’s request to keep the clinic open. 

The St. Louis clinic, the last in the state to provide abortions, earlier this week formally requested that the Administrative Hearing Commission keep its license valid until an Aug. 1 hearing. 

Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region is the last provider of abortion services in Missouri. It could lose its license this week.
File photo | David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 1:55 p.m., June 24 with comments from an attending physician at the Planned Parenthood clinic  — A circuit court judge has allowed Planned Parenthood in St. Louis to continue providing abortions until late Friday afternoon.

A ruling Judge Michael Stelzer made Monday would allow Planned Parenthood to make its case for keeping its license to the state Administrative Hearing Commission, which resolves disputes between state regulators and private entities.

Director of Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri M'Evie Mead addresses reporters outside the St. Louis Circuit courthouse on Friday. June 21, 2019
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 2:15 p.m., June 21 with comments from Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and the state health department director — The only abortion provider in Missouri has lost its license, but the clinic’s future remains unclear after a court hearing Friday morning in St. Louis.

Citing patient safety concerns, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services on Friday declined to renew a St. Louis Planned Parenthood clinic’s license to perform abortions. Officials said some abortions were not performed properly and failed.

Circuit Court Judge Michael Stelzer said the injunction he previously issued keeping the clinic open will remain in effect for now. It’s not known when he will make a final decision.

Current and former elected officials, including St. Louis Alderman Megan Green, former State Rep. Stacey Newman, St. Louis County Councilwoman Lisa Clancy and St. Louis Alderman Christine Ingrassia, left to right, joined a rally outside Planned Parenthood
File photo|Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

As the deadline nears for the state’s decision on whether to renew the license for Missouri’s last remaining abortion clinic, doctors at Planned Parenthood have announced they have stopped following a state rule that, in effect, makes them conduct two pelvic exams before providing the procedure.

The St. Louis clinic had started conducting the exams several weeks ago as part of a corrective plan between the organization and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. The plan was put in place after the agency found Planned Parenthood wasn’t in compliance with state rules, which include an initial pelvic exam as part of its 72-hour consent law.

A state court judge in St. Louis on Friday ordered Missouri to restore Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood’s affiliates in that city.

Judge David L. Dowd ruled that the legislature’s fiscal 2019 appropriations bill for the Medicaid program violated the state constitution by barring payments to abortion providers and their affiliates.

He found the bill ran afoul of the constitution’s requirement that appropriations bills can’t refer to other laws when fixing their amount.

Dr. David Eisenberg, medical director of Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, answers questions during a press conference Friday.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Abortion rights advocates are concerned the legal dispute over the last existing abortion clinic in Missouri may have already hindered access to abortion.

The license for Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region has been in jeopardy for months as state officials delayed action on its application. To compel the state to act, Planned Parenthood took state officials to court.

Circuit Court Judge Michael Stelzer has kept the license in effect while the arguments play out in court. But abortion rights advocates say the legal process as well as Missouri’s increasingly stringent abortion regulations could discourage doctors from providing the procedure in the future.

Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region is the last provider of abortion services in Missouri. It could lose its license this week.
File photo | David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 9:45 p.m. June 10 with additional comments from Planned Parenthood  — Missouri will continue to have legal access to abortion.

A St. Louis Circuit Court judge on Monday granted Planned Parenthood a preliminary injunction that effectively keeps its license to operate a St. Louis abortion clinic open for at least 11 more days.

Judge Michael Stelzer ordered the state Department of Health and Senior Services to decide whether to renew Planned Parenthood’s annual license by June 21, when attorneys representing the organization and the state appear in court again.

The judge’s decision means Missouri’s only abortion provider will continue operating while he weighs Planned Parenthood’s objections to the way state health officials have handled the organization’s request for a new license.

Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region is the last provider of abortion services in Missouri. It could lose its license this week.
File photo | David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 9:58 p.m. June 7 with information from the College of American Pathologists —Missouri health officials say they are investigating “failed surgical abortions” at Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis clinic.

Department officials said Friday that some women who had received abortions at the clinic remained pregnant after the procedure, according to an analysis of fetal tissue.

The officials say they reported a lab that tests fetal tissue from abortions at the St. Louis clinic to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Federal officials then temporarily suspended the lab’s accreditation.

Juliana Hertel and Grace Hardison demonstrate against abortion restrictions during a Planned Parenthood rally in downtown St. Louis. May 30, 2019
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Planned Parenthood is awaiting St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Michael Stelzer’s decision on whether the center is able to renew its abortion clinic license.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jeremy D. Goodwin will go behind the headlines with health reporter Sarah Fentem to discuss developments in the case this week.

Dr. Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, spoke to reporters after a court hearing on Wednesday, June 5, 2019
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

Lawyers for Missouri’s only abortion provider told a St. Louis Circuit Court judge on Wednesday that it has been unable to renew the clinic’s annual license because state health officials have not followed proper procedures.

Planned Parenthood has asked Judge Michael Stelzer to issue a temporary injunction barring the state Department of Health and Senior Services from delaying or denying a renewed license to Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region.

Jamie Boyer, an attorney for Planned Parenthood, told the judge during a hearing that the department’s efforts to interview independent physicians who work at the clinic have been an obstacle.

Director of Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri M'Evie Mead addresses reporters outside the St. Louis Circuit courthouse on Tuesday, June 4, 2019
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 4:30 p.m. June 4 with reaction from Planned Parenthood — A St. Louis Circuit Court judge has delayed until Wednesday a hearing that could determine whether Missouri’s sole abortion clinic remains open. Judge Michael Stelzer ruled Tuesday that current and former independent doctors at Planned Parenthood will not have to testify.

Lawyers for the state Department of Health and Senior Services had subpoenaed doctors, aiming to compel them to testify in court. That request pushed back a hearing on Planned Parenthood’s request for a preliminary injunction barring the state Department of Health and Senior Services from delaying or denying a renewal of the clinic’s license. The judge set that hearing for 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Planned Parenthood’s lawyers have asked Stelzer to bar the state Department of Health and Senior Services from delaying or denying a renewal of the clinic’s license.

The Hope Clinic for Women in Granite City is 10 minutes from downtown St. Louis and is one of the abortion clinics in Illinois that could see more patients if Missouri's last abortion clinic closes. June 3, 2019
Beth Hundsdorfer | St. Louis Public Radio

On the same day last week a Missouri judge issued an order keeping open the state’s only abortion clinic, the Illinois Senate passed the Reproductive Health Act, guaranteeing women have the right to reproductive health, including abortion.

Tuesday, a St. Louis Circuit Court judge will hear arguments about whether the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services may continue to deny a renewed license to Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region.

Women protest in downtown St. Louis on May 30, 2019, to influence Missouri Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer's decision on the fate of St. Louis' last abortion clinic.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A local reproductive rights activist says the loss of Missouri's last clinic that provides abortions would be dire for black women.

Pamela Merritt, co-founder of Reproaction and the emcee of the pro-Planned Parenthood rally held on Thursday in downtown St. Louis, said black women will be disportionately impacted if the reproductive health services clinic loses its license to perform abortions.

Abortion rights activists on Thursday gathered near the Gateway Arch to protest the potential closure of Missouri's only abortion provider. They marched to the Wainwright State Office Building and decried the state's efforts to limit access to abortion.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 6 p.m., May 31 with comments from clinic officials and supporters — Missouri's only abortion provider will remain open.

A St. Louis Circuit Court judge on Friday issued a temporary restraining order that keeps the license of Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis clinic valid beyond midnight, when it expires.

Judge Michael Stelzer’s ruling keeps the clinic’s license in effect until he rules on Planned Parenthood’s request for a preliminary injunction that would bar the state Department of Health and Senior Services from denying a renewed license to Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region. A hearing is set for 9 a.m. Tuesday. 

Abortion rights activists on Thursday gathered near the Gateway Arch to protest the potential closure of Missouri's only abortion provider. They marched to the Wainwright State Office Building, where some activists went inside. May 30, 2019
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The battle over abortion rights in Missouri spilled from the courtroom into city streets on Thursday as hundreds of people gathered near the St. Louis Arch to demand state officials stop trying to limit access to abortion.

Carrying signs that read “I Stand With Planned Parenthood” and “Protect Safe, Legal Abortion,” they were there to protest the state’s efforts to limit access to abortion and the potential closing of the state’s only abortion provider.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and Planned Parenthood have been in a standoff over the clinic’s license, and today its future is in the hands of St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Michael Stelzer.

Juliana Hertel and Grace Hardison demonstrate against abortion restrictions during a Planned Parenthood rally in downtown St. Louis. May 30, 2019
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri has long had some of the strictest abortion restrictions in the U.S. Now questions about Planned Parenthood’s license in St. Louis could mean Missouri losing its only abortion clinic. Below, find FAQs and answers based on our reporting. 

Update, June 21: Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services has decided to deny the license for Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis abortion clinic, the only provider in the state.

A preliminary injunction is keeping the St. Louis clinic’s license in place until the judge makes a more permanent decision. As part of that injunction ruling, the judge said the state needed to make a decision to renew or reject the license before Friday. A status hearing was ongoing Friday morning.

Read more: Missouri Denies St. Louis Planned Parenthood Clinic License To Perform Abortions

Update, May 31: A St. Louis Circuit Court Judge has ruled to keep Missouri’s last remaining abortion clinic open hours before its license expired. Judge Michael Stelzer granted Planned Parenthood a temporary restraining order to prevent the Department of Health and Senior Services from denying its license renewal application.

Read moreJudge's Order Keeps Missouri’s Sole Abortion Clinic Open — For Now

Our original story continues below.

A St. Louis Circuit Court judge is expected to decide whether to stop Missouri from closing the only remaining abortion clinic in the state before its license expires Friday at midnight.

Planned Parenthood is asking the judge to prevent the Department of Health and Senior Services from denying a renewed license to Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region.

M'Evie Mead, director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Missouri, addresses reporters outside the St. Louis Circuit Courthouse on May 30, 2019.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 6 p.m., May 30

Lawyers for Planned Parenthood on Thursday told a St. Louis Circuit Court judge that Missouri health officials have delayed renewing a license to the state’s sole abortion provider by continually asking for additional information.

In a hearing, Planned Parenthood’s lawyers asked Judge Michael Stelzer to issue a temporary restraining order barring the state Department of Health and Senior Services from denying to renew the license for its St. Louis clinic. That license expires at midnight Friday.

Judge Michael Stelzer did not make a decision on Thursday, but could do so by late Friday. If the judge does not rule, Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region — Missouri’s only licensed abortion provider — would close.

Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region is the last provider of abortion services in Missouri. It could lose its license this week.
File photo | David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Lawyers for Planned Parenthood will ask a St. Louis Circuit Court judge to block Missouri health officials from using an investigation into a patient’s complaint to close the state’s only licensed abortion provider.

Planned Parenthood went to court Wednesday to prevent the state Department of Health and Senior Services from denying a renewed license to Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region. But Judge Michael Stelzer rescheduled the hearing for Thursday, a day before the clinic’s license expires.

In their request for a restraining order, the organization’s lawyers also asked Stelzer to bar state health officials from interviewing seven doctors at the St. Louis clinic.

What Closing Missouri's Last Abortion Clinic Will Mean For Neighboring States

May 28, 2019
Planned Parenthood supporters marched silently past the organization's Central West End clinic as anti-abortion activists prayed during a 2017 demonstration.
File photo | Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

As the last abortion clinic in Missouri warned that it will have to stop providing the procedure as soon as Friday, abortion providers in surrounding states said they are anticipating an uptick of even more Missouri patients.

At Hope Clinic in Granite City, Illinois, just 10 minutes from downtown St. Louis, Deputy Director Alison Dreith said Tuesday her clinic was preparing for more patients as news about Missouri spread.

“We’re really scrambling today about the need for increased staff and how fast can we hire and train,” Dreith said.

Missouri is within days of losing its last remaining health center that provides abortions. Unless a court intervenes, it will become the first state in the nation without such a clinic.

Planned Parenthood officials say they are filing a lawsuit in state court Tuesday, asking for a restraining order to prevent its St. Louis clinic from being forced to stop offering the procedure after a state license expires Friday.

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