Missouri may become first US state without an abortion clinic

Planned Parenthood says the state's abortion clinic could close because Missouri is threatening to not renew its license

    Planned Parenthood says Missouri's only abortion clinic could be closed by the end of the week because the state is threatening to not renew its license [File: Jim Salter/AP Photo]
    Planned Parenthood says Missouri's only abortion clinic could be closed by the end of the week because the state is threatening to not renew its license [File: Jim Salter/AP Photo]

    Missouri's only abortion clinic expects to be shut down this week after the state health department refused to renew its license, which would make it the only US state without a legal abortion clinic, Planned Parenthood said on Tuesday.

    "This is not a drill," said Dr Leana Wen, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which runs the clinic.

    "This is not a warning. This is real and it's a public health crisis," she added. "More than a million women of reproductive age in Missouri will no longer have access to a health centre in the state they live in that provides abortion care."

    Planned Parenthood said in a statement that the clinic would sue the state health department to preserve access to legal abortions in the state.

    The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    Missouri abortion ban

    On Friday, Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed a bill into law that bans abortion after eight weeks of pregnancy. 

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    Missouri was one of several states that have passed anti-abortion legislation this year in an effort to provoke the US Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade, the landmark 1973 case that established a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy.

    According to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research and policy organisation, nearly 380 abortion restrictions were introduced across the country between January 1 and May 20. About 40 percent of the proposals have been abortion bans.

    The Guttmacher Institute has also found that 17 bans have been enacted across 10 states so far this year.

    "It is not unusual to see hundreds of abortion restrictions introduced every year, but this high proportion of proposed bans is unprecedented, signaling a substantial shift in tactics at the state level," the organisation recently said on its website.

    Supreme Court avoids abortion question

    Separately on Tuesday, the US Supreme Court sent a mixed message on abortion, refusing to consider reinstating Indiana's ban on abortions performed because of fetal disability or the sex or race of the foetus while upholding the state's requirement that foetal remains be buried or cremated after the procedure is done. 

    Both provisions were part of a Republican-backed 2016 law signed by Vice President Mike Pence when he was Indiana's governor.  

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    In an unsigned ruling, with two of the nine-member court's liberals dissenting, the Supreme Court decided that a lower court was wrong to conclude that Indiana's foetal burial provision, which imposed new requirements on abortion clinics, had no legitimate purpose. The court has a 5-4 conservative majority.

    Although the foetal burial provision was not a direct challenge to the Roe v Wade decision, the ruling gave anti-abortion proponents a victory at the Supreme Court. 

    But the court also indicated a reluctance to directly tackle the abortion issue, at least for now, rejecting Indiana's separate attempt to reinstate its ban on abortions performed because of foetal disability or the sex or race of the foetus. The court left in place the part of an appeals court ruling that struck down that the provision. 

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    "While this ruling is limited, the law is part of a larger trend of state laws designed to stigmatise and drive abortion care out of reach. Whether it's a total ban or a law designed to shut down clinics, politicians are lining up to decimate access to abortion," said Jennifer Dalven, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, which was part of the legal challenge to the Indiana law.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies