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Missouri rejects license renewal for lone abortion clinic

The Missouri state flag flies outside of the Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, the state's last operating abortion clinic, Friday, June 21, 2019. in St. Louis. Missouri's health department said on Friday that it won’t renew the abortion license for the state’s lone clinic, but the St. Louis Planned Parenthood affiliate will be allowed to temporarily perform the procedure under a court order. (Christian Gooden/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)

JEFFERSON CITY — Attorneys for Missouri’s only abortion clinic have asked a state panel to reverse a decision by regulators that would stop legal abortions in the state.

On Friday, the state Department of Health and Senior Services denied Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region’s application to continue abortion services at its Central West End clinic, citing a series of deficiencies there.

The clinic is allowed to continue abortion services through Friday because of an order by St. Louis Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer. In his order, Stelzer said the state Administrative Hearing Commission, which handles bureaucratic disputes, should review the case.

Attorneys for Planned Parenthood have asked the commission to conduct a hearing on the dispute. They asked the commission to force the state to re-license the clinic.

“Petitioner affirmatively states that its renewal application was complete and that all of the applicable requirements for licensure have been met,” attorney Charles W. Hatfield wrote in a complaint filed Monday night. “Nothing in Missouri’s statutory or regulatory scheme provides any basis or justification for Respondent’s asserted grounds for license denial.”

The case has been assigned to Commissioner Sreenivasa Rao Dandamudi, and the commission has set a hearing for Aug. 1 in St. Louis.

Because Planned Parenthood is only authorized to perform abortions through Friday, its attorneys asked Dandamudi for an order allowing it to continue providing abortions until the commission reviews the case.

He is one of three judges on the Administrative Hearing Commission and was appointed by then-Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, in 2010.

Dandamudi has also served as an assistant attorney general for Missouri and has worked as general counsel for the state Board of Registration for the Healing Arts.

The fight before the Administrative Hearing Commission is the latest development in a licensing dispute that has drawn national attention.

If Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis clinic is forced to stop providing abortions, Missouri would be the first state since 1974 to have no abortion clinic in operation.

Beyond the licensing dispute, Missouri lawmakers this year approved a sweeping anti-abortion proposal that bans the procedure, in most cases, at eight weeks of pregnancy.

Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, signed the measure last month. Most of its provisions take effect in August.

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Jack Suntrup covers state government and politics for the Post-Dispatch.