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DHSS responds to reports it tracked women’s menstrual cycles as part of Planned Parenthood investigation

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Department of Health and Senior Services has pushed back against reports of its director tracking the menstrual cycles of Planned Parenthood patients. 

As the department (DHSS) and a St. Louis Planned Parenthood facility have squared off in front of the Administrative Hearing Commission (AHC) this week over a licensing dispute, reports surfaced that Director Randall Williams held a spreadsheet of records that included a variety of the clinic’s patient information, including women’s menstrual cycles. 

The fallout was swift, garnering national attention. Democratic presidential contender Cory Booker weighed in on the “disturbing” news; Auditor Nicole Galloway, who is challenging Gov. Mike Parson in the 2020 gubernatorial election, called for Williams to be fired. 

Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh implored Parson to investigate Williams and the department and “take all appropriate remedies up to and including termination of employment” in a letter Wednesday. 

But DHSS has pushed back against the reports, calling them “false claims” based on an “erroneous email subject line that both staff and sworn testimony has acknowledged is incorrect.” 

In a lengthy statement Wednesday night, DHSS said: 

The truth is that as part of our initial inspection, a concern came up that DHSS may not be receiving complication reports for all failed surgical abortions, as required by law. Without a directive from Dr. Randall Williams, regulators devised a means to efficiently investigate that concern using legally-obtained information which was required by law and which Planned Parenthood routinely submits. A Department investigator took the data in DHSS possession and narrowed if from approximately 3,000 abortions conducted in 2018 to 67 instances where the same woman had multiple abortions in the same year. The data was further narrowed to exclude multiple abortions and ultimately identified a case where a failed abortion was not reported by Planned Parenthood, in violation of Missouri Law. Only then was the case shared by regulators with Dr. Williams.”

DHSS said Williams “did not possess a spreadsheet of patient information” and maintained regulators did not commit any wrongdoing. 

“This information, in fact, was important in the investigative process in ensuring that facilities are safe for patients,” the department said.  

The case before the AHC is regarding DHSS letting the clinic’s license expire at the end of May and eventually officially outright rejecting it. State health officials have accused Planned Parenthood of violating regulations, leading to botched abortions and the hospitalizations of multiple patients. 

Planned Parenthood has maintained its doctors are in-line with state rules and accused the state of “weaponizing the licensing process” shortly after Parson signed a bill greatly restricting abortion in the state. 

The facility has been allowed to continue operating fully as the case is ongoing. Should it be shuttered, Missouri would be the lone state in the U.S. without an abortion provider. 

AHC Commissioner Sreenivasa Rao Dandamudi has been assigned the case. He is a former assistant attorney general for Missouri and has represented multiple professional licensing boards, such as the State Board of Registration for the Healing Arts, where he ultimately served as general counsel. He also served as a faculty member for the Federation of State Medical Boards for its Board Attorneys Workshops.