Abortions at Columbia Planned Parenthood could soon end if judge doesn’t issue stay

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri could see the number of facilities offering abortion services drop to just one if a state law is enforced.

The Columbia Planned Parenthood facility could face cancellation this week if a federal district judge does not grant their request to stay the enforcement of SB 5, a bill passed into law following the second special session in the summer of 2017.

Planned Parenthood had appealed to the courts to block the enforcement of the new law passed by the legislature in a special session in 2017. The organization in mid-September asked a federal district court judge to stop Missouri’s new law from requiring doctors at the Columbia Planned Parenthood to get admitting privileges at local hospitals in order to perform abortions.

In their filing, Planned Parenthood wrote that the Columbia clinic cannot meet those standards, and as such, it would make the St. Louis site the only one to provide abortion services.

“Without further relief from this Court, at least 22% of women seeking abortion at the Columbia facility will be prevented entirely from exercising their constitutional right to choose, due to their inability to travel the long distance to obtain an abortion in St. Louis,” Planned Parenthood attorneys wrote in their request for a court order. “Others will be delayed or otherwise burdened by having to make the long trip.”

Planned Parenthood had filed a lawsuit to block the state’s requirements for admitting privileges after the U.S Supreme Court struck down similar rules in Texas back in 2016. In May of 2017, a U.S. District Judge issued a temporary restraining order, but that overruled in September of 2018, sending the case back to the lower court because they deemed that the judge did not do enough to weigh the cost benefits of the state’s rules.

Planned Parenthood then asked for the rules to be put on hold again, this time just for the Columbia location, with the new law set to take effect on Oct. 1.

But just before the case was scheduled to appear in court, news broke in mid-Missouri regarding the Columbia location, which the proponents of the new law point to as why the new regulations are needed.

An unannounced inspection by the Department of Health took place on Wednesday, Sept. 26, which revealed some concerning details about the provider’s location. The story was first reported on by the TV station KMIZ, the ABC affiliate for the Columbia-Jefferson City region.

According to the “Declaration of William Koebel,” the Section Administrator of the Section for Health Standards and Licensure of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, the facility failed to:

  • Ensure a sanitary environment was preserved by providing easily cleanable surfaces that will not harbor bacteria and transmit infections
  • Ensure a clean and sanitary environment in the soiled room
  • Dispose of used, soiled single-use suction tubing
  • Dispose of a soiled reusable series connecting hose (clear secondary suction tubing)
  • Clean and disinfect a reusable glass suction bottle

In addition to that, DHSS found that found the clinic had a rusty suction aspiration machine in its operating room, and that tubes connected to the machine had a “reddish colored fluid” that was “most likely bodily fluid” as well as a “blackish-gray substance on the inside the length of the tubing” which a Planned Parenthood staff member said was mold.

“In Missouri, state legislators, the Attorney General’s office and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services are vigorously protecting the health and safety of women who are considering abortion,” Samuel Lee of Campaign Life Missouri wrote regarding the report. “If Planned Parenthood was truly concerned about women’s health, it would be just as vigorous in complying with the laws, instead of always challenging them.”

Planned Parenthood’s appeal was heard in court Monday morning, but unless a decision comes staying the enforcement of that law, then abortions scheduled for Oct. 3 will be canceled, and St. Louis would become the only site to provide abortions in the state.

Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email benjamin@themissouritimes.com or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.