Fight continues to keep last abortion clinic in Missouri

By Janet Post
November 18, 2019
Fight continues to keep last abortion clinic in Missouri
AP photo/Jeff RobersonSupporters of women’s right to choose abortion protest in St. Louis in May in defense of Planned Parenthood family planning clinic there against government moves to close it down.

Planned Parenthood is continuing to fight against a concerted political campaign by Missouri’s governor, the state’s director of health services and anti-abortion forces to close the only clinic in the state that provides abortion services. Protesters carrying a large banner saying “Abortion is healthcare” gathered across the street from an Oct. 28 meeting in St. Louis of the Missouri Administrative Hearing Commission on the state’s move to shut the clinic down.

Missouri is one of six states that have only one facility that offers abortions, along with Kentucky, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota and West Virginia. 

In March, the St. Louis clinic was “investigated” by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, which then charged the facility with “deficiencies.” State officials also claimed some of the Planned Parenthood doctors were unwilling to talk with investigators. 

In June, the state moved to revoke the clinic’s license, but a federal judge two months later ruled the facility could stay open until the Administrative Hearing Commission took up the case. A ruling on the clinic’s license is expected in February. 

At the hearing Planned Parenthood learned to their surprise that the director of the health department had ordered the compiling of detailed information from patients’ medical records. 

On Oct. 29 Yamelsie Rodriguez, president of Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis region, told the media, “Missouri’s top health official, Randall Williams, scrutinized menstrual cycles of women in this state in order to end abortion access.” 

Elizabeth Nash, a representative of the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, said they had never heard of any other state governments tracking menstruation of clinic patients. 

Missouri officials had earlier imposed a requirement that women at the St. Louis clinic had to get not one, but two invasive pelvic exams prior to being allowed to have an abortion. Under pressure, the state had to back off in June. 

New restrictions on right to choose

Missouri is one of several states that have recently passed new restrictions on women’s right to have an abortion that challenge the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision making it legal. Gov. Mike Parson signed a law banning abortions beyond eight weeks of pregnancy in May, including in pregnancies from rape or incest. 

If the clinic is ordered to stop performing abortions, it would make Missouri the first state where the procedure is not available since 1974, the year after the Roe v. Wade decision decriminalized abortion. Planned Parenthood opened a new clinic in Fairview Heights, Illinois, Oct. 30, across the Mississippi River from St. Louis.