ST. LOUIS – A decision issued May 29 by Missouri Administrative Hearing Commissioner Sreenivasa Rao Dandamudi means that a Planned Parenthood clinic here can remain open and perform abortions.
The news came after a year-old legal fight that had pitted the Gov. Mike Parson – a member of First Baptist, Bolivar – and the state’s Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) against Planned Parenthood. The question was whether to renew the facility’s license. A March 11-13, 2019 annual inspection of that facility in St. Louis’s Central West End found “numerous violations of state laws and regulations,” Parson said. On April 3, DHSS began an investigation of the facility relating to “a series of instances that raised concerns about quality of care, patient safety, and statutory and regulatory compliance.” A week later, DHSS requested interviews with all seven of the doctors associated with the facility, though the abortion facility did not readily provide the interviews.
“These actions are unprecedented,” Parson said at the time. “No one is receiving any special treatment. The same steps and process are taking place whether it’s this one facility or any of the other 4,000 health facilities licensed by the state – with the singular focus to ensure the safety and wellbeing of patient care. Planned Parenthood’s apparent disregard for the law, their failure to complete complication reports, and the accuracy of medical records are all serious concerns that need to be addressed prior to any license renewal… .”
When DHSS declined to extend the license, Planned Parenthood sued and was allowed to remain open. Had DHSS prevailed, Missouri would have become the first state since 1974 – the year after Roe v. Wade was decided – with no licensed abortion facilities. The Administrative Hearing Commission ruling means the facility’s license is renewed through May 2021.
One of the defenses Planned Parenthood offered was that the facility offered services “vital” to women’s health – including abortion – in Missouri. This, despite the fact that another abortion facility performs abortions just across the Mississippi River in Fairview Heights, Ill. For example, in January of 2019, the St. Louis Planned Parenthood facility “served” 203 “abortion patients” and 92 in Fairview Heights. In October of 2019, the numbers of the St. Louis facility dropped to just 15, while the numbers in Fairview Heights began to rise into the triple digits. By February of 2020, the last month for which figures were available, the St. Louis facility performed only 3 abortions, while the Fairview Heights facility performed 323. This suggests Missouri women were crossing into Illinois, despite an abortion facility being present in Missouri.
Bonnie Lee, a member of Open Heart Baptist Church in Columbia and a member of the Missouri Baptist Convention Executive Board, said pro-life advocates have evidence that when patients call the St. Louis facility, they are sent to Fairview Heights, because there’s not an opening in St. Louis.
“It’s interesting that Planned Parenthood’s main defense in lawsuits against Missouri’s basic, common sense safety laws is they create an undue burden on women by causing them to travel for abortions; even forcing them to travel out of state. Yet it’s not a burden to women when they’re sent out of states simply because the abortionist chooses to see them in clinics that do not have the safety regulation oversite.”
Regardless of the decision, the fight to protect unborn Missourians goes on. Missouri Right to Life Executive Director Susan Klein, a member of Cedar Grove Baptist Church, Holts Summit, said Missouri Right to Life will be reviewing the details of this decision in the coming week, “but given what we know about the State’s strong case against Planned Parenthood, St Louis, we call upon our Attorney General to challenge this injustice.”
“Over the years, that Planned Parenthood has broken Missouri laws and has put women at risk with their multiple recurring infractions,” she said. “They say they are targeted when the fact is that they are the law breakers. They put women’s safety and health at great risk.
“In essence, Administrative Commissioner Dandamudi has negated any oversight of the abortion industry,” Klein said. “This is not justice, it is not common sense and it goes against our justice system as a whole. We call upon our State pro-life leaders to correct this injustice, this slap in the face to our Department of Health and Senior Services, and take action to protect women from being harmed at the Planned Parenthood in St. Louis.”