Missouri denies license to US state's sole abortion clinic
The last abortion clinic in the state of Missouri, run by Planned Parenthood, has been denied an operating license GETTY IMAGES/AFP/File

The Missouri state health department on Friday denied a license to the only abortion clinic in the midwestern US state, but it will remain open pending a court ruling.

The denial of the license was announced by Planned Parenthood, which operates the abortion clinic in the city of St. Louis.

"Missouri's health department weaponized a regulatory process to deny an abortion license to the last remaining health center in Missouri that provides abortion," Planned Parenthood said in a tweet.

"The fate of abortion access now rests in a court's hands."

A Missouri court is currently examining the move to deny the license to the clinic, and the judge in the case has issued a preliminary injunction allowing it to remain open for the time being.

"The preliminary injunction continues for now, blocking Missouri from completely shuttering abortion access in the state," Planned Parenthood tweeted. "This means abortion services can continue in Missouri!"

Missouri lawmakers passed a bill last month banning abortion after eight weeks of pregnancy, including in cases of rape and incest, but that measure will not take effect until later this year.

Missouri is one of more than a dozen US states that have passed laws restricting abortion as part of a concerted strategy to try to challenge the 1973 Supreme Court ruling allowing the procedure nationwide.

The states restricting abortion access have generally sought to roll back when the procedure is permitted, to as early as when a heartbeat is first detected -- around six weeks of gestation, when many women do not yet know they are pregnant.

Most of the measures are expected to face legal challenges and eventually end up before the Supreme Court.

The top US court is now dominated by a conservative majority, including two justices appointed by President Donald Trump.

Its landmark Roe v Wade decision allows for conditions to be placed on abortion only after the first trimester of pregnancy.

The high court allows states to place some limits on abortion so long as they do not result in an "undue burden" for women.

The term is interpreted very differently from one state to another, and abortion access is generally much more readily available in western and northeastern parts of the country than in the South and the Midwest.

Missouri's Republican Governor Mike Parson recently welcomed a drop in the number of abortions from 20,000 to 3,000 in his state, which is home to six million people.

Parson has accused Planned Parenthood of "actively and knowingly violating state law on numerous occasions" and refused to renew their clinic's license.