ST. LOUIS (AP) — Missouri’s health department director said Tuesday that he had tracked the menstrual cycles of Planned Parenthood patients as part of an effort to identify what the agency says were “failed abortions” at the clinic at 4251 Forest Park Ave.
Department of Health and Senior Services Director Randall Williams made the revelation during the second day of an administrative hearing to determine whether the clinic – the only one in Missouri that offers abortions – will lose its license to perform the procedure.
Williams said an investigator had made a spreadsheet at his request that included the dates of patients’ last periods, The Kansas City Star reported. He said the goal was to find women who had needed multiple procedures to complete an abortion.
The head of the St. Louis clinic called the move “deeply disturbing.”
“Missouri’s top health official, Randall Williams, scrutinized menstrual cycles of women in this state in order to end abortion access,” Yamelsie Rodriguez, president and CEO of Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, said in a statement.
Missouri House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, called for an investigation to see if patient privacy had been compromised or if laws had been broken. She also was critical of Williams’ actions.
“State law requires the health department director to be ‘of recognized character and integrity,'” Quade said in a statement. “This unsettling behavior calls into question whether Dr. Williams meets that high standard.”
The state had moved to revoke the clinic’s license in June, citing concerns about a series of “failed abortions,” and a lack of cooperation from some of the doctors involved.
Though Williams said concerns about the clinic were “grave,” he said the issues were “imminently fixable.” He said he believed there were solutions that both the state and Planned Parenthood would agree to that would allow for licensure.
Planned Parenthood said there were no deals on the table.
The state moved in June to revoke the clinic’s license, citing concerns about a series of “failed abortions,” and a lack of cooperation from some of the doctors involved in the procedures, who refused to talk to investigators.
Williams testified that two of the doctors had since relented and had been deposed, and that the information they provided had been helpful in learning what happened in four instances in which abortions went wrong.
The clinic remains open until the Administrative Hearing Commission ruling, which isn’t expected until February at the earliest.
Wrangling over the license began when an investigator involved in a March inspection of the clinic found that a woman had undergone an abortion that took five attempts to complete. William Koebel, director of the section of the health department responsible for abortion clinic licensing, said Monday that the clinic failed to provide a “complication report” for that incident.
That failure led the health department to launch an investigation of other instances where women were required to undergo multiple procedures before an abortion was completed, Koebel said. They found four, including one where the physician apparently missed that the woman was pregnant with twins. As a result, the woman underwent two procedures five weeks apart.
Planned Parenthood officials have contended that the state “cherry-picked” a handful of difficult cases out of thousands of otherwise successful abortions. They’ve accused the state of using the licensing process as a tool to eliminate abortions in Missouri, saying the state is among several conservative-led states seeking to end abortion through tough new laws and tighter restrictions.
Missouri would become the first state since 1974, the year after the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, without a functioning abortion clinic if the license revocation is allowed.