The last abortion provider in Missouri may lose its license this week, functionally leaving women in the state without access to safe abortions—even though they currently remain legal in Missouri and all other U.S. states.
Planned Parenthood’s license to provide abortion care at its St. Louis health center is not set to be renewed by the state health department before it expires on May 31, Planned Parenthood officials said during a call with reporters on Tuesday. “This is not a drill. This is not a warning. This is real, and it is public health crisis,” Planned Parenthood President Dr. Leana Wen said during the call. “This will be the first time since 1974, the year after Roe v. Wade was decided, that safe, legal abortion care will be inaccessible to people in an entire state.”
Planned Parenthood has filed a lawsuit challenging the plan, and asking for a restraining order that would allow its clinicians to continue providing abortions after May 31, Wen said during the call. “I can use no other word to describe what is happening other than the weaponization of the licensing process,” Wen said. “This has nothing to do with medicine, and everything to do with politics.”
A representative from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services did not immediately respond to TIME’s request for comment.
The news comes less than a week after Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed into law a bill that, starting in August, will ban abortions after or during a woman’s eighth week of pregnancy and subject doctors who perform abortions to up to 15 years in prison. That law came amidst a flurry of legislation meant to limit access to abortion, including a near-total ban in nearby Alabama set to go into effect in about six months.
Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis clinic is currently the only Missouri provider able to meet state abortion care regulations, including mandates on required pre-procedure waiting periods and pelvic exams—the second of which doctors widely consider unnecessary and invasive, Wen said during the call. But the controversy over its license renewal apparently stems from one specific request from state officials, as first reported by CBS News.
Planned Parenthood officials said during the call that state officials have requested interviews with seven doctors who provide care at the clinic, including residents and fellows still getting their medical training. The group allowed interviews with its staff members and two attending physicians, officials said, but not with non-employee trainees. Wen said these doctors could risk criminal penalties or losing their medical licenses if they submit to the interviews, which she called “inappropriate and suspicious.”
Missouri health officials said the clinic’s license could not be renewed until those interviews are completed, CBS reports.
If Planned Parenthood succeeds in obtaining a restraining order, it could continue operating on its current license after May 31. A hearing is scheduled for tomorrow, officials said on the call with reporters.
Even if the restraining order is not granted, Planned Parenthood officials said the organization will work with partners and clinics in other states to ensure that all women seeking abortions can get the care they need.