Missouri’s last abortion clinic might have to stop providing the procedure by the end of the week, according to Planned Parenthood, which operates the clinic.
Dr. Leana Wen, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said the group has sued the state because it has not renewed the license of the clinic, which is in St. Louis.
If the clinic’s license is not renewed by the end of this week, Missouri would become the first state in the United States without access to abortion services in nearly 50 years, during the time that federal protection for the procedure has been in place.
Lawyers for the clinic say state health officials are making broad demands as part of an audit that began this spring. They say the officials are requiring that all physicians working in the clinic submit to an interview; that includes residents and fellows, who are not part of the clinic’s permanent staff.
“At this point, we have reached an impasse,” said Helene Krasnoff, head of litigation at Planned Parenthood, in a phone call with journalists.
The audit, a kind of annual inspection, began around March 11, Ms. Krasnoff said. It found deficiencies, and the clinic submitted its plan for correcting them on April 9, Ms. Krasnoff said. But the clinic is now deadlocked with state officials.
Ms. Krasnoff said the clinic has objected to interviews with all of its physicians because the state has not explained what the interviews would be about or whether the doctors could face criminal consequences.
This month, Missouri passed a law that would impose criminal penalties on anyone providing an abortion after eight weeks of pregnancy, or around the time an ultrasound may be able to detect the pulsing of what could become a fetus’s heart.
“They refused to discuss the scope of the interview,” Ms. Krasnoff said. “And when asked about whether or not it could lead to criminal referrals,” she added, “they have said, basically, that’s not off the table.”
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services could not be immediately reached for comment.
Missouri has been on the front line of the abortion wars, with increasingly stringent laws leaving the state with one clinic. Ms. Krasnoff said lawyers for the clinic had filed suit against the state in court in St. Louis on Tuesday, and that a hearing was scheduled for Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. Central time.