(Reuters) – Missouri’s only abortion clinic on Friday won its case against the state’s health department to remain open, as an independent arbiter found the agency was unjustified in denying the clinic’s application to renew its license.
The Midwestern state’s health officials last year declined to renew the license of the St. Louis clinic, operated by women’s healthcare provider Planned Parenthood, on the grounds that it failed to meet their safety standards. They threatened to close the clinic and make Missouri the only U.S. state without legal abortion services.
The arbiter, Administrative Hearing Commissioner Sreenivasa Rao Dandamudi, overruled the state on Friday after finding that the Planned Parenthood clinic “provides safe and legal abortion care.”
“We find that Planned Parenthood has demonstrated it meets the requirements for renewal of its abortion facility license,” Dandamudi wrote on Friday.
“Today’s decision is a hard-fought victory for Planned Parenthood patients – and for people across Missouri,” Alexis McGill Johnson, acting President and chief executive of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement.
Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Abortion is one of the most divisive issues in the United States. Opponents cite religious beliefs to declare it immoral, while abortion-rights activists say the procedure is legally protected and that bans on it rob women of control over their bodies and futures.
Planned Parenthood sued the health department in June 2019 for its refusal to renew the St. Louis clinic’s license. The state court judge presiding over the case referred the matter to the Administrative Hearing Commission, which heard both sides of the case in October.
Reporting by Gabriella Borter; editing by Franklin Paul and Jonathan Oatis