Missouri health officials say they plan to renew the abortion license of Planned Parenthood’s midtown Kansas City clinic now that the clinic has secured an abortion provider.
The Department of Health and Senior Services had allowed the facility’s license to expire on Aug. 10 after its previous abortion physician left. The department said it was impossible to verify compliance with the state’s legal requirements without a physician on the premises.
In a statement Tuesday, Randall Williams, the department’s director said, “Now that Planned Parenthood has met the requirement of having a physician to perform abortions, the Department anticipates that the facility’s license will be forthcoming. Ensuring regulatory compliance is a key component of our fundamental mission to protect health and keep people safe.”
The midtown clinic only offers medication abortions, a procedure involving the administration of two pills. One is typically taken at the facility and the other is taken later at home. The procedure is considered to be extremely safe.
Emily Wales, legal counsel and director of compliance at Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which operates the midtown facility, said she was pleased to get a response from the department but it's still forcing the facility to jump through various hoops.
"Our understanding is that the department is actually requiring additional hurdles, including an in-person meeting with our new provider, even though we know that they've met and interacted with that provider as recently as a few weeks ago at our other facility (in Columbia)," Wales said.
"What it means for us and for our patients is that it's an additional delay with someone they already know who is a high-quality provider and we're sort of still evaluating what our next steps we're going to be."
KCUR reported last week that the department said it had been unable to conduct a complete inspection of the facility at 1001 Emanuel Cleaver II Blvd. in June because its previous abortion provider had left. The department told Planned Parenthood that, as a result, it would have to start the inspection process from scratch, even though the clinic had obtained a new abortion provider in the interim.
Missouri has enacted numerous regulations governing abortion providers. The state says the requirements are meant to ensure the safety and health of patients. Planned Parenthood says most of them are medically unnecessary and aimed at discouraging women from obtaining abortions.
One of the regulations requires medication abortion providers to have backup plans with ob-gyns who have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Planned Parenthood has challenged the requirement in court and the case is set to go to trial next year.
At its inspection of the midtown clinic in June, the department cited a host of deficiencies, including the alleged failure of employees to participate in annual disaster drills; dust and dirt atop the lab refrigerator and other surfaces; and staff members not qualified by state law to do so providing informed consent information to patients.
Planned Parenthood disputed many of the findings but provided a detailed plan of correction on July 30. The department had not responded when the clinic’s abortion facility license, which is good for a year, expired on Aug. 10.
In his statement, Williams said that now that the clinic has secured the services of an abortion physician, the department has accepted Planned Parenthood’s plan of correction and will perform a follow-up inspection to determine compliance.
Dan Margolies is a senior reporter and editor at KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies