The House Committee on Oversight and Reform held a congressional hearing on November 14, 2019 to examine state efforts to undermine access to reproductive health care.

Led by Acting Chairwoman Maloney, the committee examined “how states, emboldened by the Trump Administration’s sustained and systematic attacks on reproductive health care, are restricting access, and it will explore the federal government’s role in preserving access to reproductive health care services for patients across the United States.” To do this, the committee brought forth a panel of witnesses that show “patient, provider, and advocacy perspectives on how state policies – like those in Missouri – are impacting access to comprehensive reproductive health care services, including abortion.” These witnesses include Fatima Goss Graves, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Women’s Law Center, Marcela Howell, Founder and President/Chief Executive Officer of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, and Dr. Colleen McNicholas, Chief Medical Officer of the Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri. The panel also included the stories of Jennifer Box, who shared her story of her family’s decision to get an abortion, and Allie Stuckey, the minority witness who advocated on behalf of the pro-life movement.

The hearing focused mostly on the efforts of the Planned Parenthoods in Missouri, with Dr. McNicholas’ expert and first-hand experience. Republican representatives questioned Dr. McNicholas on the operations of Planned Parenthood while Democratic representatives asked about her experience with Missouri’s restrictions on reproductive health care providers. As she put it, “In my exam room, abortion is not political, it is simply healthcare.” Dr. McNicholas talked about Planned Parenthood Missouri’s efforts to provide abortion services despite the targeted restrictions, as well as many other reproductive care services. Representative William Clay of Missouri stated, ”I am proud to stand with Planned Parenthood because they are truly on the front lines of defending women’s healthcare.” Dr. McNicholas responded that the LGBTQ community also needs “access [to] care in a place they feel respected and dignified and Planned Parenthood is happy to be one of those places.”

In her opening statement, Dr. McNicholas talked about Missouri’s recent targeted restrictions. She shared stories of the Missouri State Department of Health and Senior Services enforcing a medically unnecessary pelvic exam requirement on patients 72 hours prior to receiving an abortion. She also gave insight into the recent events of Missouri’s State Health Department’s director, Randall Williams, admitting the government tracked and kept a spreadsheet of Planned Parenthood’s patient’s menstrual cycles.

This hearing comes after a serious of state governments systematically restricting access to reproductive health care, with Missouri on the front lines of this effort. Missouri currently has “only one health clinic that provides abortion in the state and is at risk of being the first state in the country without a single abortion clinic.” These movements have been in alignment with the Trump Administration’s efforts to restrict reproductive health care, which includes expanding the rights of providers to discriminate by denying care and breaking down the Title X federal family planning program.

Sources: Washington Post 11/10/19, Committee on Oversight and Reform 11/14/19

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