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Missouri Investigating 'Failed Surgical Abortions' At St. Louis Planned Parenthood Clinic

Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region is the last provider of abortion services in Missouri. It could lose its license this week.
File photo | David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio
Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region is the last provider of abortion services in Missouri. Planned Parenthood has asked a judge to bar state officials from denying the clinic a renewed license.

Updated at 9:58 p.m. June 7 with information from the College of American Pathologists —Missouri health officials say they are investigating “failed surgical abortions” at Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis clinic.

Department officials said Friday that some women who had received abortions at the clinic remained pregnant after the procedure, according to an analysis of fetal tissue.

The officials say they reported a lab that tests fetal tissue from abortions at the St. Louis clinic to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Federal officials then temporarily suspended the lab’s accreditation.

State law requires physicians who perform abortions to closely examine fetal tissue to ensure that the procedure is complete, officials with the state Department of Health and Senior Services said.

“The findings at Planned Parenthood’s contracted laboratory contributed to adverse patient outcomes,” said Dr. Randall Williams, the state department’s director.

Planned Parenthood doctors say failed abortions are rare but possible.

State officials said Friday that the lab, Boyce and Bynum Professional Services, later cooperated with state investigators and as a result, the College of American Pathologists restored the lab’s accreditation.

But Friday evening, a spokeswoman for the College of American Pathologists said that Missouri health officials had incorrectly attributed the withdrawal of the lab’s accreditation to the professional organization. The lab also has yet to regain its accreditation, said Catherine Dolf, a senior manager of media relations for the College of American Pathologists.

Boyce and Bynum Professional Services voluntarily dropped its accreditation in January, Dolf said. The lab was under direct supervision of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services during the period state health officials are referring to, she said.

The lab is applying for accreditation through the professional organization, and as such did notify it of the federal agency’s on-site visit in late April and its May 7 notice that the lab was not in compliance with federal standards for clinical laboratories, Dolf said.

On Thursday, the federal agency informed the lab it is now in compliance with those standards, she said.

Williams said when the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services notified state officials on Thursday, they were able to make the information about the lab public.

The state’s announcement comes as a St. Louis Circuit Court judge is considering Planned Parenthood’s request for an injunction barring the state Department of Health and Senior Services from denying a renewed license to the St. Louis abortion clinic.

State health officials have refused to issue the St. Louis clinic a renewed license to provide abortions. They say they have concerns about patient safety at the clinic and need to interview physicians to investigate.

The clinic’s license was set to expire last week. But Judge Michael Stelzer issued a temporary restraining order that kept its license in place until he ruled on Planned Parenthood’s request.

Doctors at the clinic say the state is using additional regulations and seeking interviews with doctors to try to end access to abortion in Missouri. If the clinic closes, Missouri would become the first state without an abortion clinic.

The state’s press release about the laboratory is part of that effort, said Dr. Colleen McNicholas, an attending physician at the clinic.

"This diversionary tactic by Gov. Parson’s Department of Health and Senior Services proves what we’ve long said — the department is treating Planned Parenthood differently in the inspection process," she said. "Planned Parenthood has bent over backwards to cooperate with DHSS, but the agency refuses to engage in good faith.”

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David is the health, science and arts & culture editor for St. Louis Public Radio.
Sarah Fentem is the health reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.