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Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region Files Lawsuit

Missouri poised to be first state without access to safe, legal abortion since Roe v. Wade

ST. LOUIS - Just days after Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed one of the most extreme abortion bans in the country into law, Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region (RHS) announced they expect the state health department to block services at the state’s last remaining health center that provides abortion in just three days, and RHS will sue the state in order to try to keep serving Missouri women. The lawsuit will be filed in the Circuit Court of St. Louis today. Without court intervention, Missouri would be the only state in the country without access to a health center that provides safe, legal abortion — forcing the more than 1.1 million women of reproductive age in Missouri to face a world not seen since before Roe v. Wade.

It is important to note that abortion is still legal and accessible in Missouri — for now. Despite the recent spate of abortion bans, abortion is still legal in all 50 states.

Statement of Dr. Leana Wen, President & CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:

“This is not a drill. This is not a warning. This is a real public health crisis. This week, Missouri would be the first state in the country to go dark—without a health center that provides safe, legal abortion care. More than a million women of reproductive age in Missouri will no longer have access to a health center in the state they live in that provides abortion care.

“This is the world that the Trump administration and Republican public officials across the country have been pushing for—a world where abortion care is illegal and inaccessible in this country. These politicians are passing law after law to intimidate women—including laws that would allow women to be investigated for miscarriages—and criminalize doctors—including the law just signed in Alabama that could impose a life sentence on doctors. Missouri’s governor just signed an extreme ban into law, but he is not waiting until the law goes into effect: his administration is ending access to safe, legal abortion care. Planned Parenthood will not stand for this. We are filing a lawsuit today against the state of Missouri. We want our patients to know that we will never abandon the women of Missouri. We will help you to get the care that you need—no matter what.”

Statement of Dr. Colleen McNicholas, OB-GYN, Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region:

“Planned Parenthood has served Missouri for more than 87 years and we will fight to provide care for another century. We are currently open for all services, and our top priority is to ensure access to abortion continues so that every patient can access high-quality care in Missouri. Just like the Trump administration and the state politicians they embolden, Missouri Governor Parson’s inspections process has become just another vehicle to intimidate doctors like me and to push abortion care out of reach for patients. None of this has one bit to do with patient health or safety, but rather, banning abortion. State officials continue moving the goal post on abortion providers until we can no longer provide care.

“While we fight to protect safe legal abortion access in court, Planned Parenthood’s first priority is to work with patients closely to ensure they receive the care they need either from Planned Parenthood, or from other trusted providers—no matter what.”

Statement from Jodi Magee, President & CEO, Physicians for Reproductive Health:

“It is outrageous that in order for people to get health care that honors their dignity and autonomy, physicians who provide abortion care must put their lives and livelihood on the line every day. The hostility and harassment physicians face from protestors at clinics to politicians at state houses is unacceptable, and it has only gotten worse in the past few years. Abortion is health care—no one should be intimidated out of providing it or receiving it. Politicians must stop putting targets on physicians’ backs and let them care for patients without political interference.”

At Planned Parenthood, the health and safety of patients is a top priority. In fact, the St. Louis health center has maintained 100 percent compliance, as required by law, every year - a higher standard than is required by any other health center in the state.

However, because of political attacks and restrictions throughout Missouri, the Planned Parenthood health center in St. Louis is the last remaining health center in the state that still provides abortion. But now, less than a week after enacting a bill that Gov. Parson said would help make Missouri the “most pro-life state in America,” the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) is refusing to renew Planned Parenthood’s license to provide abortion in the state — shutting down the last remaining health center’s ability to provide abortion unless doctors consent to inappropriate interrogation, bordering on harassment.

It is not new for politicians in Missouri or elsewhere to use a combination of state laws and regulatory harassment to target abortion providers — in fact, Missouri already used similar targeting to block the only other health center in the state that provided abortions from continuing to do so in 2018. Missouri requires doctors to do things like perform invasive and medically unnecessary pelvic exams on patients, and has dozens of medically unnecessary restrictions that make abortion nearly impossible to access. These restrictions include a 72-hour mandatory delay for patients accessing abortion that requires patients to make two trips to the health center, and demanding that abortion providers hold local hospital admitting privileges.

While the state is cutting off access to abortion, maternal and reproductive health in the state are declining. Maternal mortality rates in Missouri are more than 50% higher than the rest of the country, and a syphilis outbreak is sweeping the state.

This follows an alarming trend of abortion bans passing in states aimed at criminalizing and intimidating doctors with the threat of prison time. With President Trump in the White House and Justice Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, state politicians have been emboldened to try and ban safe, legal abortion. In just the first five months of 2019, 11 states have enacted abortion bans, including multiple bans in some states. Missouri and Alabama just passed some of the most extreme abortion bans we’ve seen since Roe v. Wade, with egregious criminal penalties against doctors. Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky, and Mississippi have also passed six-week bans this year. This is all part of a concerted strategy to ban abortion outright by overturning Roe v. Wade.

Already, 1 in 3 women of reproductive age lives in a state where abortion could be outlawed if Roe is overturned. That’s over 25 million people. While abortion bans impact everyone who can become pregnant, they hit people of color and those who are struggling to make ends meet the hardest — the people who already face barriers to accessing good health care. While some wealthy women may be able to find a way around abortion bans, far too many people — especially those who already face racism, homophobia, and transphobia — will be left with no options at all.


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