Subscribe for 99¢

ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis judge on Tuesday heard arguments from Planned Parenthood and the state of Missouri over legal technicalities regarding the Central West End abortion clinic’s license, but delayed hearing the merits of the case until 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer said “the only issue that is ripe for adjudication” is Planned Parenthood’s request for a preliminary injunction on its claim that the state’s license renewal regulations are at odds with the state constitution.

He also quashed subpoenas filed by the state to compel four doctors to testify in the case. Lawyers for the doctors had shown “that compliance with the subpoenas would present an undue burden and hardship” on the doctors.

Stelzer opened Tuesday morning’s hearing by noting “misinformation” about what he had been asked to decide — a licensing issue, not the legality of abortion in Missouri.

“The recent changes to the law in Missouri are not in front of this court,” Stelzer said.

Stelzer last week issued a temporary restraining order preventing Planned Parenthood’s license from expiring at midnight Friday. The ruling was part of the clinic’s lawsuit against the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, alleging the state agency had illegally refused to renew the St. Louis abortion clinic’s yearly license until the department could complete an investigation into an unspecified patient complaint.

The legal fight stems from the state’s request to interview seven physicians, all of whom had worked at the clinic, as part of the investigation. Five of the doctors, who aren’t employed by Planned Parenthood but come from local university medical programs to treat patients at the clinic, have refused to be interviewed as part of the state’s investigation.

If the facility’s license is not renewed, Missouri would become the first U.S. state without an abortion clinic since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 that established a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy.

Late last month, Gov. Mike Parson signed one of the nation’s strictest abortion laws, banning them after the eighth week of pregnancy. The two events have together turned the nation’s attention on Missouri, one of several states to pass stricter abortion laws.


Photos of abortion protests since 1973

Joel Currier is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter here: @joelcurrier.

Breaking News e-newsletter

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.