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Hearing on the fate of St. Louis abortion clinic postponed until Thursday

Hearing on the fate of St. Louis abortion clinic postponed until Thursday


Attorneys for Planned Parenthood and the state of Missouri had been scheduled to meet in court Wednesday afternoon in a dispute that will likely determine the fate of the state's only licensed abortion clinic.

But, Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer said in open court, a hearing on the case had been postponed until 10:30 a.m. Thursday.

"Due to facts out of everybody's control here, this case will be given a brief continuance," Stelzer said.

Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region sued the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services on Tuesday, alleging the state agency was "unlawfully" holding up renewal of the St. Louis abortion clinic's license until the department could finish an investigation into an unidentified patient complaint.

The clinic, in the Central West End, will see its license expire on May 31 unless the state relents and renews the license, or the court intervenes.

If the clinic stops performing abortions after Friday, Missouri will be the only state in the country without at least one abortion clinic, according to Planned Parenthood officials.

DHSS, as part of its complaint investigation, is seeking to interview several physicians who had worked at the clinic, even though most of the physicians are not employed by Planned Parenthood, the lawsuit says.

The clinic argues in the suit that it has no power to compel those physicians to speak to the department.

On Friday, Gov. Mike Parson signed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. Most of the law's provisions — including one prohibiting most abortions eight weeks into a pregnancy — do not take effect until Aug. 28.

Parson, a Republican, told reporters on Wednesday that in addition to not arranging interviews, Planned Parenthood had not corrected several "deficiencies" at the St. Louis clinic, declining to elaborate.

"They still have two more days to comply," Parson said. "They've got to answer for the deficiencies to the Department of Health."

Planned Parenthood, in its lawsuit, contends it has addressed all of the state's concerns.

Joel Currier of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

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