Photo: Jacquelyn Martin (AP Photo)
Last week, Gov. Mike Parson—in his efforts to position Missouri as “one of the strongest pro-life states in the country”—signed legislation that makes any doctor who performs an abortion within the state subject to up to 15 years imprisonment.
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But if the state’s health department has its way, abortions won’t even have to be banned in order to abolish them entirely.
The Washington Post reports that Planned Parenthood’s license expires on Friday, and the state’s health department is threatening not to renew it. Should the license expire, Planned Parenthood President Lena Wen said “this will be the first time since 1974 that safe, legal abortion care will be inaccessible to people in an entire state.”
As it stands, Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis location is the only clinic in the state offering abortion procedures, so the organization is suing the state for the right to continue offering them.
In a video posted to Twitter on Tuesday, Wen announced, “Today, Planned Parenthood is suing the state of Missouri for illegally refusing to renew our license. If our health center cannot provide abortion care, Missouri will go dark.”
Wen denounced the state’s actions as “harassment” meant to “intimidate” the physicians who perform these procedures.
It would appear that Wen has her share of allies, as Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said her organization would join Wen in taking legal action against the state.
“What is happening in Missouri shows that politicians don’t have to outlaw abortion to push it out of reach entirely,” Dalven said in a statement.
Using the hashtags #EmergencyReponse and #StopTheBans, Planned Parenthood’s official Twitter account reinforced Wen’s stance.
“Missouri could become the first state with no health center to provide safe, legal abortion,” the account tweeted. “So, we’re suing.”
Bonyen Lee-Gilmore, director of State Media Campaigns for Planned Parenthood, accused the state of “weaponizing the inspections process” and noted that this dispute has been festering for years.
“This didn’t happen overnight. It’s been a slow drip of restriction after restriction, and we’ve been warning for some time that abortion access is on the line,” said Lee-Gilmore.
And with similar anti-abortion efforts being mounted throughout the South in states like Georgia and Mississippi, Wen is afraid this is just the beginning.
“This a chilling warning for all of us that we are in a public health crisis,” she said in an email to CBS News. “Today it’s Missouri, tomorrow it could be all of America.”