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Missouri ordered to pay legal fees after losing licensing fight with Planned Parenthood

Missouri ordered to pay legal fees after losing licensing fight with Planned Parenthood

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JEFFERSON CITY — A failed bid by Missouri Gov. Mike Parson to shut down Missouri’s lone abortion provider will cost taxpayers $140,000.

In a decision issued Friday, Administration Hearing Commissioner Sreenivasa Rao Dandamudi granted Planned Parenthood’s request to pay legal fees connected to the case, as well as another $6,600 that was spent on an expert witness.

Charles Hatfield, once a top aide to former Gov. Jay Nixon, was the lead attorney in the case.

The decision marks the latest fallout from the Republican administration’s high-profile loss in an effort that began after Parson took office in 2018.

A four-day trial in October 2019 highlighted the administration’s efforts to close the facility by denying it a license to operate based on allegations that Planned Parenthood had botched abortions.

A March 2019 inspection, for example, found that a woman had undergone an abortion that took five attempts to complete. The health department investigated other instances when women underwent multiple procedures to complete an abortion and found four.

In one of the cases, the patient had to return for a second procedure because, Dandamudi wrote, it was likely she was pregnant with twins and only one had been aborted. Planned Parenthood officials said the other twin might have been missed because the patient was “morbidly obese.”

Planned Parenthood attorneys said the state “cherry-picked” a handful of difficult cases out of thousands of otherwise successful abortions.

Evidence in the case also showed there were political calculations in Parson’s decision to pursue the facility’s closure.

After Dandamudi ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood last year, Planned Parenthood officials said a new licensing inspection process was less confrontational than the 2019 inquiry led by employees of state health chief Randall Williams.

Soon after, Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s office said it would not pursue further appeals.

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