Missouri: Gov't Small Enough To Shove Up A Planned Parenthood Patient's Cooternanny
For at least a decade now, the state of Missouri has had only one abortion clinic — a Planned Parenthood in St. Louis. In May of this year, the state's health department declined to renew the clinic's license over what it claimed were "deficient practices," although a judge issued a preliminary injunction allowing the clinic to stay open for the time being.
A four-day hearing, which concluded on Thursday, was held to determine whether or not the state would be allowed to close the clinic, effectively ending legal abortion in Missouri.
Dr. Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, testified during the hearing that an "investigation" into the clinic was triggered after evidence of a "failed abortion" was found, for which there was no complication report filed. State investigators then searched through patient data, finding what they claimed were four more instances of unreported "failed abortions."
Dr. Williams also testified that in their search for these "failed abortions," the investigators compiled a spreadsheet of patient data that included some extremely personal information, including the dates of menstrual periods. Like, they were basically tracking the dates of these people's periods in order to determine whether or not they had secretly had an abortion that did not work out and then subsequently gone back to the clinic to get another one. How creepy is that? Extremely creepy!
Lisa Cox, a spokeswoman for the health department, claimed that there was nothing creepy about what the investigators were doing, because those menstruation dates were part of the regular reporting that Planned Parenthood is required to do and the patients were not listed by name. Nevertheless, there really is just something extremely unsettling about all these state investigators searching through that personal information and logging it into spreadsheets in hopes of being able to use said information to decimate reproductive rights in the state.
As usual, this does not have anything to do with any great concern for anyone's safety. They're not worried that this clinic is actually doing anything shady. Rather, it's all the result of a conspiracy theory put forth by forced birth enthusiasts claiming that sometimes, abortions don't work and then the baby is born alive and perfect and then the doctors just straight up kill that born baby in cold blood because of how it was supposed to be aborted. Like, they made a thing up out of thin air, and as a result, legislation is being passed and periods are being tracked by state officials.
In reality, surgical abortions conducted early in a pregnancy have only about a 1.5 percent chance of "failing." It's one of the safest and most likely to be effective medical procedures you can get. Perhaps ironically, a landmark study on abortion in America found that one of the things that actually does make abortion less safe are the anti-choice regulations implemented by states. Because abortions are safest and most effective early in pregnancy, waiting periods (Missouri's is 72 hours) that force women to delay their abortions put them at greater risk.
But this theory has led both to this bullshit and to legislation like the "Born Alive Abortion Survivors Act" — a bill meant to prohibit doctors from killing perfectly healthy born babies that were supposed to be aborted. Shockingly enough, there are already laws on the books preventing not just doctors, but anyone in general, from killing newborn babies. Like, I actually cannot walk down the street, see a woman walking with a carriage with a newborn baby inside of it, and then stab that baby in the head. If I were to do that, I would go to jail. Because it would be murder.
Dr. David Eisenberg, the former medical director for the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis, told Vox this week that ever since Dr. Williams was appointed by former Republican Governor Eric Greitens (Greitens before his disgrace-resignation did not have a perfect track record of respecting women's bodily autonomy), state regulators have been saying that they "have reinterpreted the rules and regulations and found what you do to no longer be compliant." So it should be clear exactly what is happening here. The state isn't trying to shut the clinic down because they are so concerned about safety, they want to shut it down because they want to shut it down and if that means "reinterpreting rules and regulations" and clocking everyone's shark week, then so be it.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse