A powerful congressional ally visited Reproductive Health Services at Planned Parenthood in St. Louis on Friday, June 28, just as it received news that the state administrative hearing commissioner granted a stay to allow abortion services to continue while Planned Parenthood appeals through the administrative process.
With reproductive rights under attack nationwide by Republicans as well as here in Missouri, U.S. Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay (D-St. Louis) visited Planned Parenthood of St. Louis – the state’s sole remaining clinic that provides abortions.
“I’ve been in this fight for 35 years, as a state senator, state rep.,” Clay said. “We conducted our filibusters in the ‘90s to stop the draconian efforts of those who deny women access to adequate health care, and we know what this is about. We know this is targeting poor women who otherwise could not have access to different types of health care.”
Employees at the facility, many of them longtime staff members, described the range of reproductive health services for women and men available at Planned Parenthood, including birth control, pap smears, urinary tract infections, prostate cancer testing, vasectomies, STI testing and referrals for additional health needs.
“Comprehensive healthcare for anybody who walks through the door, regardless of their ability to pay,” Clay summed up.
Planned Parenthood stresses that it has never closed and is open for all health services it provides to patients. The legal challenge only surrounds its license to provide abortions in Missouri.
“They will still be able to show up and get care,” said M’Evie Mead, director of Planned Parenthood Advocates.
Medical and other staff also talked about their experience with state regulators who inspected the site prior to its license not being renewed— using the terms “targeting,” “harassment” of trainees and “intimidation” which allegedly ratcheted up under Gov. Mike Parson.
Clay said he will share the staff’s concerns with his colleagues in Washington, D.C. When he asked what message he could take to his colleagues, a Planned Parenthood rep responded, “Abortion is health care. That’s it.”
The U.S. House of Representatives has no standing in a state legal dispute. Clay stopped by Planned Parenthood while he was in the city to talk about a bill he is introducing to help local governments curb gun violence at Children’s Hospital.
Court says state can’t deny Medicaid payments to Planned Parenthood
The state courts recently delivered a victory for Planned Parenthood on a separate funding matter.
The 22nd Circuit Court in St. Louis ruled on June 18 that Missouri’s attempt to block Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid payments was unconstitutional. The court order prevents the state from discriminating against Planned Parenthood patients who rely on publicly funded health care programs. The state unsuccessfully argued that budget bills passed by the Missouri Legislature allowed them to “defund” Planned Parenthood health centers, which provide thousands of Missouri safety-net patients with vital preventive care including birth control, cancer screenings, and STI testing.
In a press release, Planned Parenthood said the case underscores aggressive attacks levied by state lawmakers and Governor Mike Parson’s administration on all aspects of reproductive health care. It says public health outcomes are alarming under Parson’s watch, with maternal mortality rates 50 percent higher in Missouri than the rest of the country and a syphilis outbreak is sweeping the state.
“Gov. Parson says he values life but his actions are endangering Missourians’ health and lives,” Planned Parenthood stated.
“Governor Parson and other state leaders want to deny patients the chance to access sexual and reproductive health care, but the court has stepped in on behalf of Missourians,” said M’Evie Mead, director of Policy and Organizing, Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri.
“Patients who rely on Medicaid and the state family planning program should have access to the same high-quality care received by those with private insurance.”