KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri’s only licensed abortion provider said Thursday it was unaware until recently that it had to report any complications from the procedures under a 38-year-old state law that Missouri’s new health chief is pledging to enforce more rigorously.
The acknowledgement by the Reproductive Health Services arm of St. Louis’ Planned Parenthood came a day after the director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, Randall Williams, suggested in an email to media outlets that previous administrations have been lax in enforcing the 1979 law.
That statute mandates that any abortion-related complications be reported to the state within 45 days, though it was not immediately clear Thursday whether such requirements also apply to other medical procedures.
The criticisms by Williams — a native North Carolina obstetrician and gynecologist appointed earlier this year under Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, an abortion opponent — come amid an expected proliferation of abortion services across the state by Planned Parenthood affiliates, given a federal judge’s recent rulings allowing that expansion.
While offering no specifics, including a quantification of the suspected violations under the 1979 law, Williams wrote that when the statute “requires complications to be reported, each and every complication should be reported.”
“It has recently come to my attention that this law was not complied with under previous administrations. This is unacceptable,” he said, pressing that he “will rigorously enforce this law in the future.”
A spokeswoman for Williams, Sara O’Connor, declined The Associated Press’ request for elaboration Thursday.
Jesse Lawder, a spokesman for the St. Louis region’s Planned Parenthood, told the AP that the abortion provider wasn’t aware of the reporting requirement at issue “until very recently” and has never been asked by the state for such reports.
“To our knowledge, no other health care providers in the state, including hospitals, were aware of the requirement either,” Lawder said, adding that Planned Parenthood has shared complications-related details with the state health department during inspections and when requested.
“Now that we have been made aware of it, we will of course comply as we do with all state requirements,” Lawder said.
The status of St. Louis’ Planned Parenthood as the state’s only licensed abortion provider is partly a result of Missouri’s restrictions, including requirements that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and that clinics meet hospital-like standards for outpatient surgery.
But U.S. District Judge Howard F. Sachs recently issued a preliminary injunction blocking those rules at the request of Planned Parenthood affiliates with Missouri health centers.
Sachs said he was bound by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a Texas case and that Missouri has been denying abortion rights “on a daily basis, in irreparable fashion.”
The state has asked a federal appellate court to intervene.
Planned Parenthood’s Kansas City center has offered medication-induced abortions and has said it would resume doing so if Missouri regulations in question were deemed unconstitutional. Its Columbia center stopped offering the procedure — a nonsurgical type, induced with a pill — in 2015 after its only doctor performing medication-induced abortions lost needed privileges with University of Missouri Health Care.
The regional Planned Parenthood affiliates said last month that the agencies have applied for licenses for their clinics in Kansas City and Columbia. They’re hoping to offer abortion services at those locations by this summer and are preparing related applications to the state for the Joplin and Springfield sites.
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