Missouri Governor Defends Planned Parenthood Scrutiny: 'They Still Have a License'

Missouri Governor Mike Parson addresses reporters in September 2018. - TOM HELLAUER
Missouri Governor Mike Parson addresses reporters in September 2018.
In his folksy way, Missouri Governor Mike Parson came out swinging against Planned Parenthood this afternoon — defending state regulators who have yet to renew the license on its clinic in the Central West End and insisting the process be allowed to play out.

"Nothing's happened to the license yet," he said. "They still have a license. If they meet the demands and correct the deficiencies, they'll have their license renewed."

Yesterday, Planned Parenthood revealed the fact that its license was set to expire Friday, stating that it believed it would not be renewed. The nonprofit blamed the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, saying it has "weaponized the the licensing process" in order to ban abortion. Since the Central West End clinic is currently the only one in the state performing abortions, that set off a media blitz, with national interest.

Planned Parenthood has also filed a lawsuit, asking a judge to issue a temporary restraining order barring the state from taking away its license. A judge had been set to hear that request an hour after Parson's address, though that hearing has since been postponed. (See update at story's end.)

Parson took issue with the suit, suggesting it was premature.

"It would be reckless for any judge to grant a temporary restraining order ruling before the state has taken action on a license renewal," Parson said, but then seemed to confirm Planned Parenthood's application could be in trouble, adding, "If you break the law there are serious consequences."

Parson suggested the clinic has come under scrutiny for a variety of reasons, alleging that Planned Parenthood had acknowledged that the same doctor who gets a patient's "informed consent" signature hasn't always been the one who later performed the procedure, as state law requires. He also said the clinic hadn't always done pelvic exams on women getting abortions, as the law also requires.

Finally, he said, the clinic has seen three failed surgical abortions, which includes more than one patient undergoing a procedure and going home, only to later realize she was still pregnant. He also claimed, in one instance, a woman was rushed from the clinic to the hospital for emergency surgery. "All of these examples are unacceptable," he said.

Finally, as Planned Parenthood acknowledged yesterday, some of its physicians have lawyered up rather than submit to interviews with state regulators. Dr. Leana Wen, CEO of Planned Parenthood, has called the state's demand to interview seven physicians at the St. Louis clinic an "inappropriate and suspicious interrogation" designed to "intimidate" doctors and trainees. Parson said that has slowed the renewal process.

While Parson last week enthusiastically signed into law a bill barring abortions after eight weeks, he continued to insist that his only concern was for the safety of the women getting treatment at Planned Parenthood.

"This is not about the pro life issue at all," he said. "This about the standard of care for women in the sate of Missouri. They know what these standards are They knew they were deficient. They had two months to correct that and abide by the law. That's all we're asking for."

In statements to the media yesterday, Planned Parenthood has disputed that. They will presumably do the same before a judge today in court.

We'll have much more on this story as it develops.

Update: The court hearing scheduled for 1:30 p.m. today has now been pushed back to tomorrow. Planned Parenthood had hoped to persuade a judge to issue a temporary restraining order barring the state from taking action against its license renewal, but a series of events apparently ended with the assistant attorney general set to argue the case for Missouri heading back to Jefferson City.

Arguments are now set for 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 30.

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