Missouri’s strict abortion laws have begun pushing patients out of the state to seek reproductive healthcare, reports Planned Parenthood. The state’s only remaining abortion clinic has seen a severe drop in patients as it fights a legal battle against the state government to stay open.
The clinic, Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, provided just three abortions in February of 2020, down from 174 in February of 2019. The clinic has been embroiled in a licensing dispute with the state government since 2019, when officials claimed to find “deficient practices” at the clinic in a state audit. If the St. Louis Planned Parenthood closes, Missouri will become the first state without an abortion provider.
Missouri’s restrictive abortion laws have already forced most patients to cross state lines to receive abortion care. Missouri has imposed laws designed to discourage people from seeking abortions, including requiring patients to view an ultrasound and read a booklet including the line, “[t]he life of each human being begins at conception.” After patients meet those requirements, they must wait an additional 72 hours to receive their abortion. Patients must pay for everything out-of-pocket, as Missouri has banned insurance coverage of abortions.
The effect of these laws is a denial of access to abortion care. Many patients without the time or money needed to satsify Missouri’s requirements are travelling to nearby states with more liberal abortion laws, like Illinois. “When they are weighing their options, the majority of patients are clearly seeing that abortion access is so unmanageable that they’re choosing to cross state lines,” said Yamelsie Rodriguez, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri.
A state commission is expected to issue a decision on the licensing of the St. Louis Planned Parenthood clinic in the next few weeks.
Sources: NPR 3/12/20; Vox 10/28/19; The Kansas City Star 10/24/17