A Planned Parenthood location is seen on August 5, 2015.
Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty

Missouri clinic balks at order to impose medically unnecessary exams

The Rachel Maddow Show, 6/19/19, 9:36 PM ET

Missouri abortion clinic stands up to state's 'unethical' demands

Rachel Maddow reports breaking news that Planned Parenthood of St. Louis, the last women’s health clinic offering abortion services in the state of Missouri is no longer complying with state bureaucratic demands that a medically unnecessary, invasive
Rachel Maddow reports breaking news that Planned Parenthood of St. Louis, the last women’s health clinic offering abortion services in the state of Missouri is no longer complying with state bureaucratic demands that a medically unnecessary, invasive
Missouri, a state with more than 6 million people, has just one abortion provider: Planned Parenthood at St. Louis. The Republican-led state government has targeted this one last provider, hoping to make Missouri the only state in the post-Roe country to have no abortion providers at all.

As Rachel explained on the show last night, state officials are trying to strip the clinic of its license – a matter that’s currently being litigated – but that’s not the only step Missouri has taken. Three weeks ago, the state, without any newly approved laws or regulations, decided that women seeking abortions in Missouri had to undergo a mandatory, medically unnecessary internal pelvic examination, three days before terminating a pregnancy.

It’s an invasive procedure that serves no medical purpose. But in Missouri, even if medical professionals don’t want to do the procedure, and even if patients don’t want to be forced into the procedure, it doesn’t matter. The state, citing a new interpretation of old rules, said it’s now required.

According to a physician at the clinic, in order to receive an abortion in Missouri, women were effectively told to submit to “a state-sanctioned … sexual assault.”

Reluctantly, Planned Parenthood at St. Louis initially agreed to comply with the instructions and forced women to undergo an unnecessary and intrusive exam. As CBS News reported, the clinic took a new position last night.

Planned Parenthood of St. Louis, Missouri’s last remaining abortion clinic, told CBS News exclusively that it will no longer conduct a second pelvic exam that state regulators have recently mandated. Planned Parenthood doctors say the examination is “unethical” and stand by the decision even as it moves the clinic one step closer toward losing its license.

The abortion clinic said Wednesday that it would no longer comply with regulators’ interpretation of state law regarding the pelvic exams. Beginning soon, doctors at the clinic said they would conduct a pelvic exam only at the time of the procedure – which is when they deem it medically relevant – not at the initial consultation 72 hours prior.

It’s worth emphasizing that some of the early reporting on this said the local clinic had decided to defy state regulations. That’s not quite right: the facility, rather, is no longer complying with Missouri’s new interpretation of the policies that were already in place.

Planned Parenthood of St. Louis is still following the law; it’s just not following new made-up rules about imposing medically unnecessary vaginal exams on women who don’t want or need them.

For more on this story, I hope you’ll take a few minutes to watch last night’s coverage, including Rachel’s interview with the medical director of the local clinic.

Disclosure: As I’ve mentioned several dozen times, my wife works for Planned Parenthood, but she played no role in this piece, and her work is wholly unrelated to the affiliate in Missouri.