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‘It broke me as a physician to do this to her’: How Missouri harasses women seeking abortions

Governor Parson: Planned Parenthood must comply with Missouri probe of St. Louis clinic

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson pushed back Wednesday against Planned Parenthood’s attempt to seek a court order blocking the state from pulling the license of the abortion provider’s St. Louis clinic, due to expire Friday. (Technical difficulties)
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Missouri Gov. Mike Parson pushed back Wednesday against Planned Parenthood’s attempt to seek a court order blocking the state from pulling the license of the abortion provider’s St. Louis clinic, due to expire Friday. (Technical difficulties)

St. Louis ob-gyn Amy Addante tweeted this week about the real-world effect of the requirements being imposed on patients and doctors at the last clinic performing abortions in Missouri.

“Today,” the doctor wrote, “I was forced by the state of Missouri to perform an unnecessary pelvic exam on a patient terminating her pregnancy for a fetal anomaly. She is heartbroken over her situation, and I was forced to do an invasive, uncomfortable exam. It broke me as a physician to do this to her.”

To her, not for her. Not for any medical reason, but to keep the clinic open, at least for now.

This harassment by the state is not to be confused with Missouri’s new ban on abortions performed after the eighth week of pregnancy, with no exceptions in cases of rape or incest. That law is scheduled to take effect on Aug. 28.

This is part of a licensing dispute and is not a “pro-life issue at all,” according to Gov. Mike Parson. You can say that again.

St. Louis Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer has issued a temporary restraining order blocking the state Department of Health and Senior Services from revoking the license of the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis.

Meanwhile, the state alleges that the clinic is unsafe for women, and Planned Parenthood answers that no, it’s the state that’s increasingly unsafe for women.

Dr. Randall Williams, an obstetrician and the director of the state health department, told NPR he had “concerns about standard of care and policy” at the sole surviving clinic.

A news release issued by his department says that a March inspection found “failed surgical abortions” after which patients remained pregnant, a lack of “informed consent” and “at least one incident in which patient safety was gravely compromised.”

If any one of those things were true, it would be serious. But if even one were true, don’t you think we’d have heard all about it in the three months since that inspection? The credibility of the state in this matter is not robust, but we look forward to hearing these assertions backed up in court.

In his previous job in a similar position in North Carolina, Williams got into trouble for downplaying risk to public health.

Before disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens decided that Williams was just the man for the job in Missouri, he was accused by a state toxicologist in North Carolina of trying to “play down the risk” of coal ash contamination in drinking wells by rescinding a “do not drink” order.

In a deposition, Williams said he canceled those warning notices because they were stirring up needless fears. Now he’s imposing needless procedures.

“Only on May 22,” his department’s news release said, “did Planned Parenthood change their previous position and agree to comply with Missouri regulations which require pelvic exams at the screening prior to abortions so that information learned from the pelvic exams could increase the safety of the procedure.

On May 28, only after filing their lawsuit did Planned Parenthood again change another previous position to comply with Missouri law that the same physician who does the preoperative counseling will also perform the abortion.”

“The unprecedented refusal by Planned Parenthood to fully cooperate as they have in the past heightens our regulators’ concerns about what their investigation has revealed to date.”

Again, if there are women who went to that clinic for an abortion and walked out still pregnant, or who got abortions they never consented to, why are state officials nattering about a failure to do an unnecessary pelvic exam or to have the same doctor who delivered the state-imposed lecture also perform the procedure?

And what is the point of that latter requirement, if not to make it impossible to get an abortion in Missouri by any means?

Dr. Colleen McNicholas, of St. Louis Planned Parenthood, put it this way in a statement: “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.”

The ob-gyn in charge of our state health department is in effect telling women to have a nice glass of coal ash and call him in the morning.

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