Missouri governor says state’s intent to close only abortion clinic not political

(Reuters) – Missouri Governor Mike Parson on Wednesday said politics played no role in the state department of health’s intent to close Missouri’s sole abortion clinic, a move that would make it the only U.S. state with no legal abortion provider.

Five days ago, Parson signed into law a measure banning abortion in Missouri after the eighth week of a woman’s pregnancy, making the state one of eight this year to pass new restrictions. Women have a right to an abortion under federal law and anti-abortion activists say the state measures are aimed at provoking a U.S. Supreme Court review of abortion rights.

Planned Parenthood, the national women’s health provider that operates the clinic, sued the Missouri department of health on Tuesday after the department told the clinic it could not approve a license until it interviewed seven doctors that worked there. The clinic’s license is due to expire on Friday.

“The state has not taken any action regarding Planned Parenthood’s license in St. Louis,” Parson told a Wednesday news conference. “This is not an issue about the pro-life issue at all … They should have to meet the same standards.”

Parson said the clinic had “ample time” to meet the state health department’s license renewal requirements, but that the clinic had failed to do so when it applied for license renewal on May 16.

Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit, which asks a judge to stop the state from revoking its license, said that clinic officials are at an impasse with public health officials over interviews with physicians who are not employees of Planned Parenthood and have not agreed to be interviewed.

Anti-abortion activists say this year’s wave of legislation is intended to prompt the newly installed 5-4 conservative majority on the Supreme Court to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy.

Missouri is one of six U.S. states that currently have just one abortion provider, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, which tracks healthcare in the United States. The other states are North Dakota, South Dakota, Kentucky, West Virginia and Michigan.

Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Scott Malone and Grant McCool

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