Missouri's last abortion clinic to temporarily stay open in Planned Parenthood case

A St. Louis judge on Friday temporarily blocked Missouri from taking action that would make the state the first in the U.S. since Roe v. Wade to not have a single abortion clinic.

Planned Parenthood, which now operates the only clinic in Missouri performing abortions, won a temporary restraining order from circuit court Judge Michael F. Stelzer. The clinic will stay open till at least Tuesday when there will be a hearing at 9 a.m. to consider a preliminary injunction.

Without Friday's court action, the St. Louis clinic's license for providing abortions would have expired at midnight.

Judge Stelzer was careful to say his order took no sides in the ongoing dispute, but only found that a further hearing was warranted. "A [temporary restraining order] does not purpose to pass upon the merits of a controversy or dispose of any issue," he wrote.

Planned Parenthood, however, met the standard that harm would result without a temporary restraining order, according to the court.

"Petitioner has demonstrated that immediate and irreparable injury will result if petitioner's license is allowed to expire," the judge wrote.

The health department in Missouri said it has the right to ban abortions at the clinic if doctors who perform the procedure don't submit to questioning as a condition of license renewal. Planned Parenthood says many of the doctors at the clinic are not their employees, so they can't force them to comply with the questioning.

Planned Parenthood claims the health department "is refusing to renew" its St. Louis clinic's license in a deliberate effort to shut it down.

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An anti-abortion protester with tape over her mouth demonstrates outside the U.S. Supreme Court before the court handed a victory to abortion rights advocates, striking down a Texas law imposing strict regulations on abortion doctors and facilities in Washington June 27, 2016.

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Demonstrators hold signs outside the U.S. Supreme Court as the court is due to issue its first major abortion ruling since 2007 against a backdrop of unremitting divisions among Americans on the issue and a decades-long decline in the rate at which women terminate pregnancies in Washington, U.S. June 27, 2016.

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Demonstrators hold signs outside the U.S. Supreme Court as the court is due to issue its first major abortion ruling since 2007 against a backdrop of unremitting divisions among Americans on the issue and a decades-long decline in the rate at which women terminate pregnancies in Washington, U.S. June 27, 2016.

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Anti-Trump demonstrator protests at abortion rights rally in Chicago, Illinois, January 15, 2017.

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Pro-choice activists celebrate on the steps of the United States Supreme Court on June 27, 2016 in Washington, DC. In a 5-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down one of the nation's toughest restrictions on abortion, a Texas law that women's groups said would have forced more than three-quarters of the state's clinics to close.

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Pro-life activists gather outside the Supreme Court for the National March for Life rally in Washington, DC, U.S. January 27, 2017.

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Pro-life activists gather for the National March for Life rally in Washington January 27, 2017.

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Pro-Choice supporters of Planned Parenthood rally outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. February 11, 2017.

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A man holds up a rosary in front of competing demonstrators displaying pro-life and pro-choice signs as the annual March for Life concludes at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, DC, U.S. January 27, 2017.

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Siberian Husky Tasha wears a "Huskies for Choice" sign while held by her pro-abortion owner Michelle Kinsey Bruns in front of the Supreme Court during the National March for Life rally in Washington January 22, 2016. The rally marks the 43rd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 abortion ruling in Roe v. Wade.

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A man stands during an anti-Planned Parenthood vigil outside the Planned Parenthood - Margaret Sanger Health Center in Manhattan, New York, U.S., February 11, 2017.

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Karen Lieber joined anti-abortion activists protesting in front of Planned Parenthood, Far Northeast Surgical Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., February 11, 2017.

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Anti-abortion supporters Marian Rumley, Taylor Miller and Sophie Caticchio from Minnesota listen to speeches at the National March for Life rally in Washington January 22, 2016. The rally marks the 43rd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 abortion ruling in Roe v. Wade.

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The Franciscan Friars Minor gather between The Supreme Court of the United States and The Capitol Building during the 44th annual March for Life January 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. Anti-abortion advocates descended on the US capital on Friday for an annual march expected to draw the largest crowd in years, with the White House spotlighting the cause and throwing its weight behind the campaign.

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Pro-choice and pro-life activists demonstrate on the steps of the United States Supreme Court on June 27, 2016 in Washington, DC. In a 5-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down one of the nation's toughest restrictions on abortion, a Texas law that women's groups said would have forced more than three-quarters of the state's clinics to close.

(Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

Pro-life activists pray on the steps of the United States Supreme Court on June 27, 2016 in Washington, DC. In a 5-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down one of the nation's toughest restrictions on abortion, a Texas law that women's groups said would have forced more than three-quarters of the state's clinics to close.

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Pro-choice demonstrators at the U.S. Supreme Court cheer as they learn the court struck down the Texas abortion law on Monday, June 27, 2016.

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View of demonstrators in front of the United Nations as they protest against a proposed abortion ban in Poland, New York, New York, April 17, 2016.

(Photo by Chuck Fishman/Getty Images)

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"This is real. This is not a warning, it's not a drill. It's not a hypothetical," Dr. Leana Wen, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports" on Thursday afternoon prior to the ruling.

"We could face a situation tomorrow where 1.1 million women of reproductive age in Missouri will no longer be able to access abortion care, which is essential health care, in their own state."

Wen added: "This is a real public health crisis."

Missouri is among half a dozen states that have recently passed sweeping new anti-abortion laws, sharply curbing women's access to the medical procedure. Gov. Mike Parson last week signed a bill that bans abortions on or beyond the eighth week of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape or incest.

States with GOP-led legislatures are pushing anti-abortion measures in hopes of re-visiting Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling that guaranteed women the right to terminate a pregnancy.

Conservatives hope the recent appointments of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh have tilted the high court enough that it would reconsider Roe v. Wade.

The aggressive strategy is being hailed by many abortion foes, though famed televangelist Pat Robertson told his fellow conservatives that they are pushing these laws — especially those with no exception for rape and incest — too far.

"My humble view is that this is not the case we want to bring to the Supreme Court because I think this one will lose," Robertson said just after Alabama passed such legislation.

In the highly contentious Kavanaugh confirmation last year, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a rare Republican who supports abortion rights, cast a key vote for the nominee. The centrist lawmaker said Kavanaugh told her Roe v. Wade was "settled law," making her comfortable with backing him.

Wen expressed less confidence that Kavanaugh would rule in favor of abortion rights.

"We're seeing extreme attacks on abortion happening all around the country," the Planned Parenthood head told MSNBC on Thursday. "This is part of the coordinated attack with Trump in the White House, with Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, to overturn Roe v. Wade to ban all safe, legal abortions in this country."

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