Missouri's last abortion clinic to stay open until at least Tuesday, judge rules

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By David K. Li  with NBC News U.S. News
Image: Women cheer during a protest rally over recent restrictive abortion
Women cheer during a protest rally over recent restrictive abortion laws on May 21, 2019 in St Louis, Missouri.   -   Copyright  Michael B. Thomas Getty Images file

A St. Louis judge on Friday temporarily blocked Missouri from taking action that would make the state the first in the U.S. since Roe v. Wade to not have a single abortion clinic.

Planned Parenthood, which now operates the only clinic in Missouri performing abortions, won a temporary restraining order from circuit court Judge Michael F. Stelzer.

The clinic will stay open till at least Tuesday when there will be a hearing.

Without Friday's court action, the St. Louis clinic's license for providing abortions would have expired at midnight.

The health department in Missouri said it has the right to ban abortions at the clinic if doctors who perform the procedure don't submit to questioning as a condition of license renewal.

Planned Parenthood says many of the doctors at the clinic are not their employees, so they can't force them to comply with the questioning.

Planned Parenthood claims the health department "is refusing to renew" its St. Louis clinic's license in a deliberate effort to shut it down.

"This is real. This is not a warning, it's not a drill. It's not a hypothetical," Dr. Leana Wen, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports" on Thursday afternoon.

"We could face a situation tomorrow where 1.1 million women of reproductive age in Missouri will no longer be able to access abortion care, which is essential health care, in their own state."

Wen added: "This is a real public health crisis."

Missouri is among half a dozen states that have recently passed sweeping new anti-abortion laws, sharply curbing women's access to the medical procedure.

Gov. Mike Parson last week signed a bill that bans abortions on or beyond the eighth week of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape or incest.States with GOP-led legislatures are pushing anti-abortion measures in hopes of re-visiting Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling that guaranteed women the right to terminate a pregnancy.

Conservatives hope the recent appointments of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh have tilted the high court enough that it would reconsider Roe v. Wade.

The aggressive strategy is being hailed by many abortion foes, though famed televangelist Pat Robertson told his fellow conservatives that they are pushing these laws — especially those with no exception for rape and incest — too far."

My humble view is that this is not the case we want to bring to the Supreme Court because I think this one will lose," Robertson said just after Alabama passed such legislation.

In the highly contentious Kavanaugh confirmation last year, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a rare Republican who supports abortion rights, cast a key vote for the nominee. The centrist lawmaker said Kavanaugh told her Roe v. Wade was "settled law," making her comfortable with backing him.

Wen expressed less confidence that Kavanaugh would rule in favor of abortion rights. "We're seeing extreme attacks on abortion happening all around the country," the Planned Parenthood head told MSNBC on Thursday.

"This is part of the coordinated attack with Trump in the White House, with Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, to overturn Roe v. Wade to ban all safe, legal abortions in this country."