Editorials

Missouri’s attempt to close state’s last abortion clinic a shameful attack on women

Hundreds protest Missouri abortion ban at Plaza in Kansas City

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered Sunday at the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City to protest a near-total ban on abortions passed by Missouri lawmakers.
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Hundreds of demonstrators gathered Sunday at the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City to protest a near-total ban on abortions passed by Missouri lawmakers.

Missouri’s only remaining abortion clinic may close Friday — the result of a relentless and unconstitutional campaign against women that’s been led by state officials, the legislature and Gov. Mike Parson.

Without a court order, Missouri could become the first state in the union in more than four decades to have zero abortion providers, threatening the rights of more than one million reproductive-age women in the state.

“Missouri would be the first state in the country to go dark, without a health center that provides safe, legal abortion care,” said Leana Wen, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “This is a real public health crisis.”

A state official said Tuesday that a final decision on the St. Louis clinic will be made by Friday.

Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of St. Louis filed a lawsuit Tuesday, asking the court to keep the facility open. Among other things, the suit argues that closing the clinic would threaten poor women, as well as women in rural areas who would have to travel to other states to obtain needed medical services if the clinic is closed.

For that reason alone, the court should order Missouri to renew the facility’s license.

But this is also a political and constitutional crisis. Missouri’s efforts to prevent women from obtaining safe, legal abortions violates the fundamental rights of its citizens, no matter where they live or how much they earn.

In recent weeks, Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services has tried to close the state’s only clinic through a series of inspections and requests that serve no real purpose other than to shut the facility down. The lawsuit lists a series of meetings and messages in which the clinic attempted to address the state’s cooked-up licensing concerns, to no avail.

“It has long been the State’s objective to eliminate abortion access in Missouri,” Planned Parenthood says. “And the State has come close to succeeding, using a series of medically irrelevant and onerous requirements to prevent health centers that stand ready to provide abortion services from being allowed to do so.”

In Missouri, lawmakers have imposed a flood of regulations aimed at making it all but impossible for facilities providing this legal procedure to remain open. The state’s threat to pull the last remaining clinic’s license is confirmation that abortion opponents are in grave danger of succeeding.

Shamefully, Missouri could provide the country with its first glimpse of what life after an overturned Roe v. Wade would look like. The prospects are frightening, and women’s rights are disappearing before our eyes.

No one from the governor’s office or the state’s Department’s of Health and Senior Services immediately responded to a request for comment on the case. The reason seems obvious: Missouri’s abortion regulations have nothing to do with protecting patient health or safety. They’re designed to stop a legal procedure that some lawmakers and bureaucrats oppose.

That opposition continues to do serious damage to Missouri’s reputation. Companies won’t want to conduct business in a state so hostile to women’s rights. Who would choose to move to Missouri, or study at its universities, or contribute to its economy when women are considered second-class citizens?

Even some prominent Republicans agree with this concern. A petition drive is now underway to put the most recent restrictions, which criminalize abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy with no exceptions for rape or incest, up for a public vote in 2020. So, the state’s voters could have the opportunity to protect the Constitution and the right to this procedure.

Until then, though, the court should keep the St. Louis clinic open.

After that, the case could wind its way through the state’s courts, and land on the desk of the state Supreme Court. That’s what happened in Kansas, and now the fundamental right to an abortion is embedded in that state’s constitution.

The governor and other state officials are trying to prevent women from exercising their rights. The courts, and voters, must stop them.

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