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Planned Parenthood hearing before Administrative Hearing Commission moved to October

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Administrative Hearing Commission (AHC) will now take up the Planned Parenthood licensing case at the end of October. 

Originally, the case between the Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region (RHS) and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) was scheduled for August 1. But after approval from both sides, the state panel pushed back the hearing to October 28 through November 1. 

The hearing will be held at the Wainwright State Office Building in St. Louis. Both parties will have until October 21 to file witness lists with the commission. 

AHC Commissioner Sreenivasa Rao Dandamudi, who has been assigned the case, granted a motion to stay last week, allowing the Planned Parenthood facility to continue to provide abortion services just hours before an earlier preliminary injunction was set to expire. 

DHSS originally let the clinic’s license expire at the end of May but officially rejected it in June per a judge’s order. State health officials have accused Planned Parenthood of violating regulations, leading to botched abortions and the hospitalizations of multiple patients. 

Health officials have also requested 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. 

Planned Parenthood has maintained its doctors are in-line with state rules and accused the state of “weaponizing the licensing process” shortly after Republican Gov. Mike Parson signed a bill greatly restricting abortion in the state. The bill, which bans abortions after eight weeks, is set to go into effect in August. 

When he issued the motion to stay last week, Dandamudi said the commission had already found “there is likelihood that RHS will succeed in its claim” because “our review of the applicable statutes and rules finds no provision that affirmatively provides an obligation for DHSS to make, or RHS to procure, such interviews.” 

“[T]he absense of these interviews in itself does not constitute a failure to comply with licensure requirements,” Dandamudi wrote in the motion. 

Without intervention from the AHC, Missouri would have become the only state in the U.S. without an abortion clinic. However, hospitals are able to provide abortion services in cases of medical emergencies. 

The AHC conducts hearings and oversees cases involving state agencies and private citizens. Former Gov. Jay Nixon appointed three of the people who sit on the four-person panel, including Dandamudi.

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. 

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.