Last Updated Jun 19, 2019 7:58 PM EDT
St. Louis — Planned Parenthood of St. Louis, Missouri's, told CBS News exclusively that it will no longer conduct a second pelvic exam that state regulators have recently mandated. Planned Parenthood doctors say the examination is "unethical" and stand by the decision even as it moves the clinic one step closer toward losing its license.
The abortion clinic said Wednesday that it would no longer comply with regulators' interpretation of state law regarding the pelvic exams. Beginning soon, doctors at the clinic said they would conduct a pelvic exam only at the time of the procedure — which is when they deem it medically relevant — not at the initial consultation 72 hours prior.
The announcement came just two days before a judge-mandated deadline for the state's health department to make a final decision on whether to renew Planned Parenthood's abortion license.
"We are choosing to provide the best quality, patient centered care that we've always provided at Planned Parenthood," said Dr. David Eisenberg, the clinic's medical director, in an interview with CBS News correspondent Meg Oliver. "And that includes doing things that are driven by science, by evidence, and by what's medically appropriate."
In late May, Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit against Missouri's health department for refusing to make a decision on the clinic's license. Since then, the agency and the clinic have been in a legal back-and-forth moderated by a district judge, who has mandated the state make a final decision by Friday.
If the department does not renew the license, the judge will determine what happens next. If the preliminary injunction currently in place is not extended, Missouri would be the first state to not have a safe, legal abortion clinic since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973.
The state's pelvic exam requirement has been at the center of a battle over the license. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said in late May that abortion providers would need to conduct a pelvic exam both at a patient's initial consultation and right before her abortion.
Planned Parenthood began conducting two pelvic exams at that time, but on Wednesday said it would be reversing course.
"Over the last few weeks, I have new evidence to say that 100% of the patients who I've taken care of who've undergone this inappropriate, medically unnecessary, unethical pelvic exam have been harmed by that," said Eisenberg. "Because to do so, in my opinion, is just assault."
Calls and emails to Missouri's health department were not immediately returned.