Judge: Missouri can't require doctors' testimony in hearing on abortion clinic

Planned Parenthood Credit American Life League Flickr CC BY NC 20 CNA 2 American Life League via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).

A Missouri circuit court judge ruled Tuesday that doctors not employed by a St. Louis Planned Parenthood do not have to testify in a hearing on the clinic, which is the last functioning Planned Parenthood in the state.

Last week, Planned Parenthood in St. Louis sued the state after its health department refused to renew the clinic's license.

State officials cited health and safety concerns about the clinic, while Planned Parenthood representatives said they had done everything possible to comply with state requirements.

The license of the Planned Parenthood clinic in question was set to expire May 31, but the clinic was able to secure a restraining order from Judge Michael F. Stelzer of Missouri Circuit Court in St. Louis, which allowed the clinic temporarily to continue operating past that date.

The state had subpoenaed five doctors in residence who had worked at the Planned Parenthood, though not as employees of the clinic, for interviews in the ongoing investigative hearing. Stelzer dismissed the subpoena as an "undue burden" on those doctors June 4.

"The non-parties have shown that compliance with the subpoenas would present an undue burden and hardship on [the non-Planned Parenthood physicians] and that the subpoenas should be quashed," Stelzer wrote, according to CBS.

The state had previously said that the renewal of the Planned Parenthood's license depended upon its interviews of these doctors.

While the clinic is the last abortion provider in Missouri, there is a private surgical abortion clinic near St. Louis, across the Mississippi River in Granite City, Ill. A Planned Parenthood clinic 20 miles away in Belleville, Ill. offers medication-induced abortion, the New York Times reported.

Dr. Colleen McNicholas, a Planned Parenthood physician in St. Louis, told CBS that "we are 100 percent committed to the best care that we can provide for patients. So certainly if there is an issue with the care we're providing we want to know about it. We want to be able to address that. But we can't do that when we're being attacked."

A 2016 report on an inspection of the clinic, the most recent available through CheckMyClinic.org, shows that the clinic at that time was in violation of multiple state standards involving the sterilization and storing of equipment, and the proper documentation of medication and procedures.

Pro-life advocates have expressed concern that the clinic's closure has been delayed despite violations of public health standards.

"This particular facility's track record shows an appalling pattern of botched abortions and other violations that prove they are incapable of policing themselves," Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said May 31.

"Planned Parenthood does not deserve special treatment and the health and safety of women should never come second to the abortion industry's bottom line."

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