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Good afternoon, my name is Dr. Colleen McNicholas and I am a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist practicing in St. Louis. I appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts and experiences as a physician as they pertain to the bills being heard today, specifically to proposed Senate Bill 1, which if enacted would affect many aspects of the provision of reproductive health care in our state.

I have spent most of my adult life dedicated to improving the health of the women of Missouri and I consider this a privilege. In the context of that care, safety has and will always be a leading priority. I am proud to say that I provide the full spectrum of reproductive health care, including abortion, a procedure that has repeatedly been shown to be safe. Despite the unique ability of abortion providers to continuously adapt to the politically motivated attack on access to care, medically unnecessary, burdensome regulations, such as proposed in SB 1, must be recognized as part of an effort to drastically reduce access to safe and legal abortion.

As a steward of public health, I welcome sincere ideas to improve the quality of care we deliver. However, the restrictions proposed by SB 1 and others are neither sincere nor do they improve quality. Last summer the U.S. Supreme Court established a new standard in which medical evidence was prioritized over ideology, and consideration of benefit as well as burden was equally weighed. I encourage the committee to remember this as they deliberate these bills and the consequences they may bring.

The variety of subjects this bill addresses is a clear reflection of its political motivation. A required complications plan for an exceedingly safe procedure whose approval is at the mercy of a political appointee appears to be little more than an attempt to subvert the admitting privileges ruling in an effort to prevent other clinics from offering medical abortion. Redefining clinics as “abortion facilities” in an effort to evade the intent of the ASC decision doesn’t improve health or promote life.

There are some real ways that the legislature could promote health and even reduce the need for abortion, but it would require women’s health to be viewed as something other than a political football. Improve sexual health education, offer equitable education opportunities regardless of zip code, make all neighborhoods safe to raise children, prioritize healthcare for all of your constituents, improve access to reliable birth control, and support new parents as they build their families. These are things that will improve women’s health and reduce the need for abortion. If you are interested in any of those I, and many of my colleges would be more than happy to help in your efforts. But as today’s bills and this entire special session demonstrate, we are unfortunately a long way from productive and positive health policy for women.