Women seeking abortions now only have one clinic to turn to in Missouri.
Planned Parenthood’s Columbia clinic discontinued the service this week after a judge on Wednesday declined to block a requirement that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.
A legal battle over Missouri laws requiring admitting privileges and for abortion clinics to be licensed as outpatient surgical centers has been ongoing since a federal judge struck down nearly identical statutes in Texas in 2016.
The Planned Parenhood operation in St. Louis is currently the only provider of the procedure. Clinics in Springfield and Joplin have been delayed while trying to comply with laws passed by the Missouri legislature in 2017. A facility in Kansas City was offering the service before its doctor left. It’s been entangled in a licensing complication with the state after securing a replacement provider.
Janice Thomas, the vice president of patient services and research at Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Southwest Missouri area said the fact that there’s only one abortion clinic in the entire state now means it’s going to put more burden on women physically, emotionally, and financially, to access safe and legal abortions.
Thomas claims there are hardships associated with such limited access to abortions. “Being the sole abortion provider in the state, from one side of the state to the other is some 300 miles,” Thomas explained, “that is a physical and emotional and perhaps financial inconvenience or risk.”
Thomas said the procedure is already a long process. “To add a bit of insult to injury, seeking an abortion in the state of Missouri requires two visits,” Thomas said, “and those two visits must be at a minimum, 72 hours apart. We could be talking about a hotel stay for three days.”
Thomas explained how the lack of abortion services won’t stop people from seeking services, just makes it more of a burden. “Women seeking abortion is literally thousands of years old,” said Thomas, “there are documents that go back to ancient Egypt where people used herbs to cause an abortion. The need is there. Women still seek, families still seek abortion. It is a needed service. We need to be here.”
As for the planned parenthood in Columbia, U.S. Western District Court Judge Brian Wimes said in his ruling that the clinic can try and ask again to be exempted from the rule if the state grants them an abortion license in the future.
Thomas said the one location in St. Louis will be busier, being the only clinic in the state. But it will see every patient that needs their services, and nobody should worry about not being able to get in.
Missouri Republican Gov. Mike Parson in a Thursday statement called Wimes’ ruling a “victory for protecting the sanctity of life.”
KOLR-TV sought reaction to current conditions from OBGYNs in the Springfield area. Some of them declined to comment while others didn’t return calls.
(Missourinet media partner KOLR-TV contributed this story)