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Missouri Gov. Parson on abortion: 'My job is ... to protect life'

Posted at 5:18 PM, May 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-30 20:29:07-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The only abortion clinic in Missouri has until midnight Friday to comply with state regulations or it will no longer be able to perform abortions.

Protesters marched in the streets Thursday in St. Louis, hoping to protect the only abortion clinic left in Missouri.

“I think my job is to do what I can to protect life,” Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said in an exclusive interview with 41 Action News.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said Planned Parenthood is out of compliance, because it has refused to cooperate with an investigation "that include compromised patient safety and violations of state laws and regulations," the Associated Press reported.

Without offering corroboration or details, the state said the "deficiencies" at the clinic have "gravely compromised" at least one patient's safety and also cited failed abortions (the woman remained pregnant) and a failure to obtain informed consent.

Planned Parenthood said it has addressed the Health Department's concerns, but the sticking point is a demand from the state to interview five contract physicians. The two Planned Parenthood employees have cooperated with investigators, but the contract doctors have declined to do so.

"I don't think that has anything to do with the decision we are making on this," Parson said referring to a recent eight-week abortion ban he signed. "The reality is this happened long before that piece of legislation got passed."

The legislation is among the strictest abortion laws in the country and even has been criticized by some Missouri conservatives, because it makes no exceptions for rape or incest.

“(They're) always moving the goal post on us, always reinterpreting certain regulations,” Dr. Colleen McNicholas with Planned Parenthood said of the current license flap with state regulators.

McNicholas, who spoke Tuesday with 41 Action News, is the only remaining doctor performing abortions in Missouri.

“One in four women will have an abortion in their lifetime," McNicholas said. "That is a lot of people. It is an incredibly common and safe procedure, one that in just a few minutes allows me to help people get to a better place."

Parson said his goal is not to close the clinic.

“Absolutely not," he said. "If they are operating under the guidelines of the state health department, which they have for years until now, it is just a matter of getting that cleaned up. If they get it done, they will be able to operate in the state.”

Now, the fate of the clinic is in the hands of a judge, who could make a decision as soon as Friday.

If the clinic's license isn't renewed, Missouri would become the first state without an abortion clinic since Roe v. Wade was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973.

There were fewer than 3,000 abortions in MIssouri in 2018, according to provisional health department data. Only 433 were at eights weeks or earlier.