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Missouri governor says Planned Parenthood needs to comply with investigation to avoid shutdown

Missouri governor on abortion clinic controversy

Missouri will not renew Planned Parenthood's license to perform abortions unless the clinic fully complies with the state's requests, said Governor Mike Parson during a press conference Wednesday. The clinic is the last one performing abortions in the state and its license is set to expire at the end of this week.

The governor claimed, "Planned Parenthood has been actively and knowingly violating state law on numerous occasions."

"Regardless of if you support abortion or not, Planned Parenthood should be able to meet the basic standards of health care under the law," Parson said. "They should not receive any exceptions because they are one clinic." 

It is the first time the state has publicly commented on Planned Parenthood's license renewal process.

On Tuesday, Planned Parenthood St. Louis, the last remaining abortion clinic in Missouri, announced it expected to be shut down at the end of this week, effectively ending access to legal abortion in the state.

In a statement Tuesday, the clinic said Missouri's health department is "refusing to renew" its annual license. If the license is not renewed by May 31, Missouri would become the first state without a functioning abortion clinic since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973.

On May 20, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services notified Planned Parenthood of three issues that could impact license renewal, according to documents reviewed by CBS News and provided by Planned Parenthood.

On May 22, Planned Parenthood said it would address two of them: adjusting who at the clinic provided the state-mandated counseling and adding an additional pelvic exam for abortion patients.

But it said a third request was out of its control. According to Planned Parenthood, the health department said it was investigating "deficient practices," and needed to interview seven physicians who provide care at the clinic. Planned Parenthood said it could offer interviews only with two who are its employees. The other five physicians working at the facility are residents in training and not employed by Planned Parenthood. 

The state has indicated that the result of those interviews could be "board review" in addition to "criminal proceedings," said a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood. The medical residents declined to be interviewed for the state's investigation.

Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit Tuesday requesting a restraining order against the state, hoping to restore the license and avoid service disruption. A circuit court judge is scheduled to hear arguments on Thursday morning, according to a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood.

During the press conference, the governor said the judge should not grant Planned Parenthood the license just because the abortion clinic is the last one in the state.

"It would be reckless for any judge to grant a temporary restraining order ruling before the state has taken action on a license renewal," Parson said. "No judge should be [giving] special treatment to Planned Parenthood in this instance. If you break the law there are consequences."

In an interview with "CBS This Morning," Planned Parenthood President Dr. Leana Wen accused the state of "weaponizing" abortion clinic inspections. 

"We hope that the court will see exactly what's happening, which is that over the last 10 years the state of Missouri has imposed regulation upon regulation that has no basis in medicine," Wen said. "We've complied with all of them because we want to keep our health center open. These are things like making our hallways extra wide, forcing women to wait 72 hours — even having unnecessary, invasive pelvic exams."

Planned Parenthood CEO accuses Missouri of trying to "weaponize" abortion clinic inspections

Parson has been an outspoken proponent of anti-abortion access legislation and last week signed into law the "Missouri Stands for the Unborn" legislation, a bill that its sponsor described as "one of the strongest" anti-abortion bills passed in the U.S. 

The bill's main feature is the ban on abortions after eight weeks, but it also includes a "trigger law" and a ladder of less-restrictive time limits ranging from 14 to 20 weeks, depending on what the courts later find to be constitutional. It also bans abortions based solely on race, sex or a "prenatal diagnosis, test, or screening indicating Down Syndrome or the potential of Down Syndrome."

The bill also includes increased tax credits for donations to so-called "pregnancy resource centers," which are clinics that aim to discourage women from having an abortion. Missouri has 104 "pregnancy resource centers," according to data compiled by the Guttmacher Institute.

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