Planned Parenthood of St. Louis argued last week that overzealous health inspectors were more of a problem than four botched abortions that jeopardized women’s health.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) revoked Planned Parenthood’s license earlier this year after finding numerous health and safety violations at the St. Louis facility. In one case, a patient underwent two failed abortions before a third succeeded. In another case, an abortionist failed to detect that a patient was pregnant with twins, requiring a second procedure. Another patient suffered life-threatening blood loss following the termination of a complicated 21-week pregnancy.
Despite the risks, a state judge granted Planned Parenthood permission to continue performing abortions until a ruling by the Missouri Administrative Hearing Commission, which heard arguments from the abortion facility and DHSS last week. The commission is not expected to rule until February.
At last week’s hearing, the facility’s chief abortionist, Colleen McNicholas, downplayed the harm to patients, saying abortion is safer than a tonsillectomy, but complications do happen.
Pro-abortion advocates tried to shift attention to DHSS Director Randall Williams, accusing him of invading women’s privacy by alleging he kept spreadsheets of patients’ menstrual cycles. Yamelsie Rodriguez, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of St. Louis, said Williams used his position of authority to “push a political agenda” to end abortion access in the state. Missouri House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, a Democrat from Springfield, called for an investigation into his actions.
DHSS called the charges against Williams false and said regulators simply “used the tools they had to protect the health of those who seek abortions at Planned Parenthood.”
State law requires Planned Parenthood to file individual reports for each woman who receives an abortion, including the date of her last normal menses and any complications that occur during the procedure. During a routine inspection, DHSS regulators suspected Planned Parenthood failed to report abortion complications. They reviewed reports from the facility’s 3,000 abortions last year and isolated 67 instances in which patients had multiple procedures. The review discovered a failed abortion the facility never reported––a potential violation of state law that was relayed to Williams.
The department also found the abortion facility had engaged in shoddy record-keeping and medical residents performed exams unsupervised. Several abortionists refused mandatory interviews with health officials.
Planned Parenthood of St. Louis has a history of health violations including the use of expired medications, IV fluids, and supplies, some up to six years old. The staff has used single-dose injectable medication on more than one patient, according to CheckMyClinic, a web database that collects public information on abortion facilities from state health departments.
“[Planned Parenthood’s] fight is not actually about women’s healthcare,” said Pam Whitehead, content manager of CheckMyClinic and executive director of ProLove Ministries. “It’s about offering abortions, even at the cost of the health and safety of women.”
The state’s only other abortion facility in Columbia lost its license last year after health officials found numerous infractions, including failure to comply with a new law requiring abortionists to receive admitting privileges at a hospital no more than 15 minutes away.
Last week, Planned Parenthood opened an 18,000-square-foot abortion facility, one of the largest in the nation, only 13 miles from St. Louis across the border in Illinois. “While we continue the fight to maintain access in Missouri, we are excited to expand our abortion services in Illinois,” McNicholas said in a statement.
Other nearby abortion facilities include another one in Illinois and one across Missouri’s western border with Kansas.
For Whitehead, the fight is far from over: “Not one time has Planned Parenthood talked about the pain and suffering these women go through. … This is about being a voice for the voiceless.”