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Missouri Health Chief Hopes To Target Planned Parenthood Using Obscure State Law

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The director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) announced Wednesday that he will prioritize a previously unenforced state law requiring abortion providers to report any complications that occur during the procedures.

Jesse Lawder, a spokesman for the St. Louis region’s Planned Parenthood, the state’s only abortion provider, told the Associated Press that the organization was unaware of the reporting requirement “until very recently” and has never been asked by the state for reports detailing abortion complications.

“Now that we have been made aware of it, we will of course comply as we do with all state requirements,” Lawder said.

The statute requires health care providers to report any abortion related complications to the state within 45 days.

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In an email sent to a number of media outlets, DHSS director Randall Williams claimed that the law was not enforced under the previous administration but did not provide any estimate of how often the law has been violated or how he plans to enforce it going forward.

Williams, a native North Carolina obstetrician and gynecologist appointed earlier this year under anti-abortion Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, 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, adding that he “will rigorously enforce this law in the future.”

Williams’ prioritization of the 38-year-old statute comes amidst the likely expansion of Planned Parenthood clinics in Missouri.


The expected proliferation of clinics is the result of a recent ruling by U.S. District Judge Howard F. Sachs. Sachs issued a temporary injunction in April blocking restrictions that required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and stipulated that abortion clinics must provide outpatient care.

In his 17-page decision Sachs wrote “the abortion rights of Missouri women, guaranteed by constitutional rulings, are being denied on a daily basis, in irreparable fashion. The public interest clearly favors prompt relief.”

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