June 1 (UPI) -- A federal judge has issued a temporary reprieve, delaying the closing of Missouri's only abortion clinic just hours before its license was due to expire.
St. Louis Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer made the ruling Friday.
The ruling also prevents Missouri from becoming the first state since Roe v. Wade to not have a single abortion clinic.
The license would have otherwise expired at midnight since state officials had refused to renew it, calling for interviews with staff doctors for a probe into "a large number of possible deficiencies."
Stelzer did not take sides in the ongoing dispute.
Still, he found that a temporary restraining order was needed to prevent harm, writing that there would be "immediate and irreparable injury," if the license were to expire.
Abortion rights advocated cheered the decision with Planned Parenthood of St. Louis saying that stopping services there would only force women to travel to neighboring states to get the procedure done.
"I'm feeling pretty good," said Chris Kaufman, 61, in a pink Planned Parenthood shirt. "I'm still nervous but I'll call it a win. We won the battle but there is still a war."
Meanwhile, anti-abortion protesters said that they were disappointed, but would continue fighting.
The state of Missouri's health department has said that it can abortions at the clinic if doctors don't submit to questions as a condition of renewing the license.
However, only two of seven staff doctors have agreed to be interviewed and Planned Parenthood said many doctors at the clinic are not their employees, so they can't force them to answer the questions.
Furthermore, Planned Parenthood alleges the health department "is refusing to renew" its St. Louis clinic's license deliberately to force it to close.
Gov. Mike Parson said that his administration is just enforcing the state's standard regulations.
Still, Missouri is among half a dozen states that have recently passed strict new anti-abortion laws.
Parson signed a bill last week that bans abortion after the eighth week of pregnancy without an exception for rape or incest, which goes into effect Aug. 28 barring a legal challenge. Doctors who violate the ban could face up to 15 years in prison with exceptions for medical emergencies.
Other states that have passed "heartbeat" bills, banning abortions after eight weeks, include Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio. Alabama has passed the most restrictive anti-abortion bill so far, a nearly total ban on abortions unless a woman's life is at risk. The American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama has vowed to sue the state over the law, which is set to go into effect in about six months.