JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Administrative Hearing Commission (AHC) will hear the licensing fight between the St. Louis Planned Parenthood facility and the state’s health department in August.
AHC has set a hearing for August 1 and assigned the case to Commissioner Sreenivasa Rao Dandamudi, a former assistant attorney general who was appointed to the tribunal by Gov. Jay Nixon.
The Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) allowed the Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region’s license to expire at the end of May. After a ruling from the 22nd Circuit Court, the state officially rejected the license last week.
The judge had issued a preliminary injunction, allowing the clinic to continue to provide abortion services, which expires on Friday. Planned Parenthood has asked the AHC for a stay “to preserve the status quo” without a hearing by Friday evening.
“Issuing a quick stay and then holding a dissolution hearing (if necessary) is the most equitable way to proceed,” the filing said.
The AHC conducts hearings and oversees cases involving state agencies and private citizens. Nixon appointed three of the people who sit on the four-person panel. Gov. Mike Parson recently appointed Philip Prewitt, who has been lauded by anti-abortion groups, to the commission. Since Prewitt was appointed while the General Assembly was not in session, he will be able to serve on the commission prior to receiving consent from the state Senate.
The licensing fight stems from state health officials’ request to interview several doctors who work or have worked at the St. Louis abortion clinic as they investigate patient care. However, Planned Parenthood argued not all of the doctors are affiliated with the organization and would only provide its doctors for interviews.
DHSS also filed a more than 60-page report with the court, alleging 30 “deficient” practices found at the facility, including some which investigators said led to failed abortion procedures leaving patients hospitalized.
In its filing with the AHC, Planned Parenthood argued: “Respondent’s allegations of deficiencies, both in its various statements of deficiencies and its ultimate denial notice, are in many cases incomprehensible or so vague that a meaningful corrective plan is impossible, and are further factually baseless and not supported by medical science.”
Should the Planned Parenthood facility not be able to provide abortion services, Missouri would become the only state in the U.S. without such a clinic. However, hospitals are able to provide abortions in cases of medical emergencies.
Parson, a Republican, has said if Planned Parenthood could “show it is abiding by the laws and regulations” imposed by the state, then the facility would have “every right, under the law, to have its license renewed.”
“We should all agree that, regardless of the number of Planned Parenthood facilities in Missouri, every step should be taken to ensure the protection, safety, and well-being of women’s healthcare,” the governor said. “If you don’t provide a standard care that ensures the safety of women, you shouldn’t be allowed to operate. It’s that simple.”
Parson signed a restrictive abortion bill last month, set to go into effect in August. The law bans abortions after eight weeks, it includes many “nestled” components to include restrictions at 14, 18, and 20 weeks should a court overturn a portion of the law.
Dandamudi is a former assistant attorney general for Missouri and has represented multiple professional licensing boards, such as the State Board of Registration for the Healing Arts, where he ultimately served as general counsel. He also served as a faculty member for the Federation of State Medical Boards for its Board Attorneys Workshops.
Additionally, he volunteers on Affinia Healthcare’s board.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a reporter with The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in March 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City. Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S. and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa. She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. Contact Kaitlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.