Gov. Parson must remove Department of Health Director Randall Williams from office after testimony reveals he misused patient data for a political agenda against abortion
ST. LOUIS — Planned Parenthood Action Fund and Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri are calling for the immediate removal of Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Director Randall Williams. Last Friday, Gov. Mike Parson publicly condoned his health department’s misuse of patient data to further a political agenda against abortion. The health department abused its authority in an attempt to achieve its end goal of limiting abortion rather than what it is tasked to do — protect the health and safety of Missourians. Parson’s endorsement of DHSS overreach comes after Williams admitted in sworn testimony that DHSS created a spreadsheet containing a list of 67 abortion patients. This abuse of power scrutinizes intimate patient data in an attempt to end safe, legal abortion access at Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region (RHS).
The spreadsheet, entitled “Director’s Request,” included patient identification numbers and, according to testimony, the health department’s calculations of women’s last normal periods. Despite all of this, Gov. Parson and DHSS continue to deny what Williams testified under oath last week during an administrative hearing over RHS’ abortion facility license. In a press conference, Gov. Parson flat-out denied the existence of the spreadsheet despite his health department director testifying otherwise.
Statement from Rachel Sussman, National Director of State Policy and Advocacy of Planned Parenthood Action Fund:
“Under the Trump administration, it is more important than ever to hold politicians accountable when they abuse their authority and violate our trust. Missouri Governor Mike Parson’s health department director, Randall Williams continues to do just that — he’s forced patients to undergo medically unnecessary pelvic exams and now, he’s admitted to misusing sensitive patient data. All of this to further a dangerous political agenda against abortion. This is government overreach and undermines the trust every person deserves to have when they enter the health care system.
“Planned Parenthood Action Fund is calling on Gov. Parson to remove Williams from office. Today it’s patients in Missouri, tomorrow patients all across the country could face similar exploitation for political gain. We will not sit idly by and watch politicians play ideological games at the expense of innocent people. Williams is unfit to serve Missourians and he must go.”
Statement from M'Evie Mead, Director of Policy and Organizing at Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri:
“Gov. Parson has thus far refused to hold his health department director accountable for abusing his authority by forcing medically unnecessary invasive vaginal exams and misusing patient data for political gain. It’s time Gov. Parson listen to Missourians and remove Randall Williams. What DHSS Director Randall Williams did to scrutinize the periods of Planned Parenthood patients in a desperate attempt to find any basis to try to end abortion access is an intrusion into our lives and has crossed the line.
“We refuse to tolerate anti-abortion officials playing politics with our health and personal information. This has gone too far. Gov. Parson must stop condoning this level of government overreach and remove Randall Williams. Missouri patients deserve better.”
Director Williams’ testimony last week proved that he is more focused on finding ways to end access to safe, legal abortion at the only abortion-providing health center in the state, than fixing the real and immediate health issues that Missourians currently face. Williams admitted to spending countless hours investigating RHS, despite that — as was made clear during the hearing — the department knew that the care provided at RHS is safe. Williams also acknowledged the department’s lack of resources to annually inspect other outpatient surgical centers and hospitals in the state, even though the department stated it is required to by law. The health department cannot inspect most of these centers and hospitals even once a year, or once in three years, supposedly because it is short staffed, and yet inspectors visited Planned Parenthood five times in the first five months of this year. What Director Williams publicly admitted during the hearing is no less than a gross abuse of power.
Director Williams also admitted he personally reviews every post-abortion care report sent by RHS, but does not personally review pregnancy-related maternal deaths, despite serving as the executive director of the Missouri Pregnancy-Associated Mortality Review Board. During his tenure as director, Missouri’s dropped from 42nd to 44th in the nation for maternal deaths. Maternal mortality among Black Missourians is three times higher than for white Missourians.
From investigating women’s periods to forcing medically unnecessary pelvic exams, anti-abortion politicians in Missouri will stop at nothing to end access to abortion in the state. This behavior is all eerily similar to the Trump administration tracking the periods of refugee girls in order to keep them from accessing abortion. This is not how government should be spending its time and is a major violation of patient privacy. This is exactly what America looks like when the government tries to control people's lives and take away access to basic health care.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund is an independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit membership organization formed as the advocacy and political arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The Action Fund engages in educational and electoral activity, including grassroots organizing, legislative advocacy, and voter education.
Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri works to protect and expand sexual and reproductive rights and health for all Missourians. It is a joint project of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes and Advocates of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, the political and advocacy arms of both Planned Parenthood affiliates in Missouri.