Judge sides with Planned Parenthood, nixing state's request for physician interviews

By Kate Smith

/ CBS News

Missouri abortion clinic to stay open, for now

A St. Louis circuit judge sided with Planned Parenthood on Tuesday afternoon, granting the clinic a preliminary injunction and ruling that the testimony of non-employees was an "undue burden" and the state's subpoena to interview them "should be quashed." The testimonies are the lynchpin of an impasse between Planned Parenthood of St. Louis, which operates Missouri's last abortion clinic, and the state health officials, as first reported by CBS News.

Missouri's Department of Health & Senior Services "refused to renew" the clinic's license, which was set to expire on May 31, unless it could interview those physicians as part of an ongoing investigation into the clinic's compliance with state mandated regulations.

"The non-parties have shown that compliance with the subpoenas would present an undue burden and hardship on [the non-Planned Parenthood physicians] and that the subpoenas should be quashed," Judge Michael Stelzer wrote on Tuesday.

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The judge also issued Planned Parenthood a preliminary injunction on Tuesday, which will allow the clinic to perform abortions without the state's license. If the clinic had lost its license, Missouri would have become the first state to not have a legal abortion clinic since Roe v Wade was decided in 1973.

Planned Parenthood sued the state last week after officials "refused to renew" its license to perform abortions. Missouri health officials said that it would not renew the license unless it could interview five residents in training who had worked at the clinic but were not employed by Planned Parenthood regarding an ongoing investigation into the clinic compliance with state regulations.

While Planned Parenthood offered interviews with all of its own employees, the five physicians in question declined to be interviewed. The state indicated that the result of those interviews could be "board review" in addition to "criminal proceedings," Bonyen Lee-Gilbert, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood said.

The department had not given the clinic any indication what the investigation was regarding, said Dr. Colleen McNicholas, a Planned Parenthood physician in St. Louis.

"We are 100 percent committed to the best care that we can provide for patients. So certainly if there is an issue with the care we're providing we want to know about it," she said. "We want to be able to address that. But we can't do that when we're being attacked."

First published on June 4, 2019 / 4:32 PM

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