A case is being heard this week that could make Missouri the first state since Roe v. Wade without a single health center providing abortion.
In early summer 2019, days after enacting one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country, anti-abortion Missouri officials — by misusing a licensing process managed by the state Department of Health and Senior Services — attempted to shut down abortion access in the state. Now, a state administrative commissioner is hearing the case. The result will determine whether Missouri’s last health center that provides abortion, Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, can keep its abortion license.
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First: This has everything to do with politics.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson — who in spring signed an unconstitutional abortion ban that a federal court blocked from going into force — is using every tool to attack Missourians’ reproductive freedom. Parson and his director of health and senior services, Randall Williams, have weaponized the regulatory process. They have refused to renew the abortion license over an inappropriate and suspicious request to interrogate (read: intimidate) doctors without explanation — including young trainee physicians not employed by Reproductive Health Services.
Since then, Missourians have learned that politicians had long planned to use this process to attack Planned Parenthood and end access to safe, legal abortion. Parson’s communications director (who has since become his campaign manager) told anti-abortion leaders and big Republican donors that blocking the license was a way to — we’re not kidding — “#ShutThemDown.”
This shows the clear motive of Gov. Parson and other political appointees, who recklessly turned health facility inspections into a tool to ban abortion and deny Planned Parenthood’s abortion license. It has nothing to do with patients — and everything to do with politics.
Second: Planned Parenthood has provided high-quality care to Missourians for 87 years.
Missouri officials such as Gov. Parson are on a mission to end access to safe, legal abortion by any means available — and may make politically motivated, medically false allegations and use misinformation to stoke fear. But facts are facts: both in-clinic and medication abortion are extremely safe procedures, and the Constitution guarantees the right to access them.
People of color and those with low incomes already face barriers to accessing good health care — with woeful consequences for public health. Black women in Missouri are over three times more likely than white women nationwide to die from pregnancy complications. Black infants in St. Louis face three times the risk of white infants of never reaching their first birthday.
Shutting down access to abortion at the only health center in Missouri to provide the procedure will do disproportionate harm to these same communities. With maternal mortality rates running 50% higher in Missouri than across the U.S. at large and a syphilis outbreak developing in part of the state, making basic sexual and reproductive health care harder to access — as anti-abortion Missouri politicians and officials are intent on doing — makes no sense.
Third: Access to abortion in Missouri is already difficult.
To access abortion in Missouri — a procedure to which pregnant people have a constitutional right — patients have to travel to a Planned Parenthood health center in St. Louis twice. On the first trip, a patient must sit through medically unnecessary state-scripted “counseling.” Then, there is a mandatory 72-hour delay. The counseling and the abortion both must be provided by the same physician — another medically unnecessary barrier designed by anti-abortion politicians to strain physician and health-center resources without providing any benefit to patients.
Already in 2019, anti-abortion Missouri lawmakers have attempted to restrict access even further, passing legislation that attempts to ban abortion at eight weeks with no exceptions for rape or incest; expand burdensome parental involvement requirements for minors who seek abortions; and promote so-called “crisis pregnancy centers,” also known as fake clinics.
Fourth: We’ll NEVER stop fighting for abortion access — in Missouri & across the country.
Access to birth control and other sexual and reproductive health care will be unaffected by this administrative commissioner’s eventual decision — and states such as Illinois are stepping up and preparing for the day when abortion access might be eliminated in places like Missouri. While Missouri and Louisiana are the latest states to show just how dead-set some politicians are on banning abortion, earlier this year Illinois passed the Reproductive Health Act, enshrining a right to safe, legal abortion in the state. Planned Parenthood has also opened a new state-of-the-art health center in Fairview Heights, Illinois — close to the Missouri border.
Planned Parenthood is continuing to provide abortion in Missouri, and will continue the fight on behalf of all Missourians to have access to abortion in the state where they live. As abortion access throughout much of the region hangs on by a thread, this new health center, along with other area abortion providers, will be an oasis for sexual and reproductive health services not only for Illinois patients, but for the entire region.
Loss of this abortion license would affect more than 1.1 million Missouri women of reproductive age. But this is no lone moment of crisis — or a situation about one rogue governor or bills enacted in one state. In 2019 alone, over 300 (!) bills restricting abortion have been proposed in 47 states, and nearly half are outright bans on abortion — despite more than three in four Americans (77%) saying they want abortion to remain safe and legal.
Take action to stand with Missouri residents — and to protect access to sexual and reproductive health care across the country.
No Abortion Bans. Not Now, Not Ever.
Here’s how you can take action to stop the extreme abortion bans sweeping the country and join the #BansOffMyBody movement.