Leana Wen, President of Planned Parenthood, speaks during a press conference in Washington, DC, on May 23, 2019.
MANDEL NGAN—AFP/Getty Images
By Jamie Ducharme
Updated: May 29, 2019 5:05 PM ET | Originally published: May 28, 2019

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.”

At a press conference Wednesday, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said Planned Parenthood’s license would be renewed if the clinic resolved “deficiencies” uncovered by state investigators by Friday, adding that the organization was aware of the renewal deadline months in advance.

“This is not…a pro-life issue at all. This is about a standard of care,” said Parson, a Republican. “They know what the standards are. They know they had the deficiencies. They’ve had two months to correct that and abide by the law. That’s all we’re asking for.”

Parson did not offer details about the alleged deficiencies, citing the ongoing investigation. But he did say that the clinic had “a series of incidents that raised concerns about quality of care, patient safety and statutory and regulatory compliance,” including failed surgical abortions and at least one complication that required emergency surgery.

A Planned Parenthood representative did not immediately respond to TIME’s request for comment on those claims.

The news comes less than a week after 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.

Aside from alleged deficiencies uncovered by state investigators, the major source of the license renewal controversy in Missouri seems to go back to one specific request from state officials, as first reported by CBS News.

Planned Parenthood officials said during Tuesday’s 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. Parson said during the press conference Wednesday that asking for interviews was a routine request, and said two doctors agreed to be interviewed on Tuesday. A Planned Parenthood representative said only its two attending physicians had agreed to interviews.

If Planned Parenthood succeeds in obtaining a restraining order, it could continue operating on its current license after May 31. A hearing was originally scheduled for Wednesday, but was later postponed until Thursday.

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.

Write to Jamie Ducharme at jamie.ducharme@time.com.

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