Issues preventing Missouri regulators from renewing the license for the state's only abortion clinic are "imminently fixable," the state's health director said Tuesday.
Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Director Randall Williams testified during the second day of a state administrative hearing that will decide if the state can revoke Planned Parenthood's abortion license for its St. Louis clinic.
The state moved to revoke the license in June, citing concerns about a series of "failed abortions," and a lack of cooperation from some of the doctors involved in the procedures, who refused to talk to investigators.
Williams testified that two of the doctors have since relented and have now been deposed, and the information they provided was helpful in learning what happened with four instances where abortions went wrong.
"While these things are very concerning — they are grave — I think going forward they are imminently fixable," Williams said.
He believes there are solutions that both the state and Planned Parenthood would agree to that would allow for licensure.
The clinic remains open until the Administrative Hearing Commission ruling, which isn't expected until February at the earliest.
Wrangling over the license began when an investigator involved in a March inspection of the clinic found that a woman had undergone an abortion that took five attempts to complete. William Koebel, director of the section of the health department responsible for abortion clinic licensing, said Monday that the clinic failed to provide a "complication report" for that incident.
That failure led the health department to launch an investigation of other instances where women were required to undergo multiple procedures before an abortion was completed, Koebel said. They found four, including one where the physician apparently missed that the woman was pregnant with twins. As a result, the woman underwent two procedures five weeks apart.
Planned Parenthood officials have contended that the state "cherry-picked" a handful of difficult cases out of thousands of otherwise successful abortions. They've accused the state of using the licensing process as a tool to eliminate abortions in Missouri, saying the state is among several conservative-led states seeking to end abortion through tough new laws and tighter restrictions.
Missouri would become the first state since 1974, the year after the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, without a functioning abortion clinic if the license revocation is allowed.
Missouri is among several states to pass new restrictions on abortions in the hope that the increasingly conservative U.S. Supreme Court will eventually overturn Roe v. Wade. Republican Gov. Mike Parson signed legislation in May banning abortions at or beyond eight weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions for medical emergencies but not for rape or incest.
A federal judge in August temporarily blocked implementation of the law until the legal challenge plays out in court, which could take several months.
While the Missouri case unfolded, Planned Parenthood quietly built a new abortion clinic in Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. The 18,000-square-foot (1,700-square-meter) clinic in Fairview Heights, 12 miles (19 kilometers) east of St. Louis, opened Wednesday, in part to meet the demand for abortions from Missouri residents.
Missouri women have been increasingly getting abortions at the Hope Clinic for Women in Granite City, Illinois, another St. Louis suburb. Deputy Director Alison Dreith said 58% of the abortions performed at the Hope Clinic through August of this year involved Missouri women, compared with 37% involving Illinois women.
Another abortion clinic sits in Overland Park, Kansas, a Kansas City suburb. The clinic is 2 miles (3 kilometers) from the state line. Information from the state of Kansas shows about 3,300 of the 7,000 abortions performed there last year involved Missouri residents.