Missouri may become the first state without a clinic that provides abortion services after the Missouri health department refused to renew Planned Parenthood’s license to perform abortions, which expires today. The license expires because of what Planned Parenthood argues are politically motivated and arbitrary regulations targeted at the clinic and Planned Parenthood is suing the state for a restraining order to allow abortion services to be performed after the license expires. This Planned Parenthood is the only clinic in the state that provides abortion services; if this clinic closes today then abortion services will become inaccessible in Missouri.
Planned Parenthood president Leana Wen said that “this will be the first time since 1974 that safe, legal abortion care will be inaccessible to people in an entire state. More than a million people [will be] in a situation we haven’t seen since Roe v. Wade.”
As abortion providers, advocates, and patients wait for a ruling on Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit in Missouri, clinics and abortion providers in nearby states are preparing for an influx of patients from Missouri.
Dr. Erin King, who runs the Hope Clinic for Women in Granite City, Illinois, across the river from the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis, stated that, “no one knows what’s gonna happen in the next day or two, but we have to be ready for this clinic to be closed, and for patients to have nowhere else to go.” The Hope Clinic for Women has been hiring additional doctors and medical staff for the past year in preparation for the possibility that Missouri will ban or severely limit abortion services.
Other clinics, such as the CHOICES health center in Memphis, Tennessee and the Trust Women clinic in Wichita, Kansas are preparing for the possible influx in patients as well. Rebecca Terell of CHOICES said that the clinic “will do [its] very best to serve any women from Missouri” and that “it may be that [they] have to add hours; [they] may have to open on a Saturday; [they] may have to make some changes, but [they] will make sure that everybody gets seen.”
Gateway Women’s Access Fund, which helps connect women seeking abortions with funds to do so, is researching ways to help Missourians obtain funds, transportation, childcare, and other means in order to travel out of state for abortion care. However, Michele Landeau of the fund says that “people are confused. And they’re scared, and it’s pretty chaotic-feeling right now.”
The expiration of Planned Parenthood’s license in St. Louis comes after Missouri governor Mike Parson signed a law that criminalizes abortion after eight weeks, before most people know they are pregnant. Under this law, there are no exceptions for rape or incest and doctors that perform abortions may be charged with a felony offence, service prison time, and lose their medical licenses.
There are five other states that only have one clinic that provides abortion services: Kentucky, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, and West Virginia. In the past few weeks, multiple states have passed anti-abortion legislation that severely limits safe and accessible abortions, such as Georgia and Alabama.
Media Resources: NPR 5/31/19; Washington Post 5/29/19; Feminist Newswire 5/16/19, 5/7/19, 5/3/19