Hearings open on fate of Missouri's last abortion clinic
Health officials opened hearings Monday that could see Missouri's sole abortion clinic closed down, making it the first US state in almost half a century to lack any facilities for terminations.
State health officials have said the clinic fails to meet safety standards and should be shuttered, but Planned Parenthood, the organization that administers the facility, says those charges are simply a pretext to close it down.
The group accuses Republican governor Mike Parson of trying to make it impossible for women to get an abortion in the state.
The clinic's license expired at the end of May, but a judge allowed it to keep its doors open temporarily until an administrative committee could weigh in on the case.
Health commissioner Sreenivasa Rao Dandamudi opened the hearings, which are expected to last all week. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the commission is unlikely to reach its decision before February.
To offset the possible closure, Planned Parenthood has opened a clinic around 20 miles (30 kilometers) across the state border in Illinois, where authorities are more protective of abortion rights established in the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling of Roe v Wade.
At the beginning of the year, Parson, an avowed opponent of abortion rights, signed a law that bans any termination after eight weeks of pregnancy, going against a Supreme Court ruling that allows abortions up until the 24th week.
The high court blocked the Missouri law from coming into force, as well as a dozen other similar laws introduced across the "Bible Belt" of religiously conservative states in the south and center of the country.
The wave of proposed laws came after President Donald Trump appointed two new judges to the Supreme Court, tipping it into the conservative camp.
Opponents of abortion are counting on them to re-examine the 1973 ruling.
At the same time, more conservative states have been making it harder for women to actually seek abortions, leaving six states with just a single clinic.
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