The hiatus is because of a difficulty scheduling doctors to perform the surgical procedure or administer RU-486, the abortion pill, Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri officials said. Those services are typically offered one day each week at the Columbia clinic at 711 N. Providence Road.
“We happen to be in a period where the physicians we utilize are unavailable because of scheduling complications,” said Peter Brownlie, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. “It’s temporary. It’s really unfortunate and regrettable, particularly for women in Central Missouri who have to travel some distance to obtain abortions.”
The closest clinics now offering abortions are in St. Louis and suburban Kansas City. The local Planned Parenthood clinic remains open for women seeking contraceptive services, annual wellness exams and other services.
Brownlie declined to say how many doctors work with the clinic on a part-time basis to perform abortions, citing privacy and safety concerns. He said he hopes the clinic can resume offering surgical and pharmaceutical abortions by the end of the month but said he could not be certain of that timeline.
A new state law took effect Aug. 28 requiring a physician or qualified health professional to show a woman an ultrasound of her fetus 24 hours before the abortion. The medical professional also must provide more counseling, and the woman must sign informed consent documents in person 24 hours before the procedure, among other requirements. Brownlie denied these requirements have generated problems for physicians. He said the new law has had the greatest effect on the women.
“That increases the burden on women who travel or who have to make child care arrangements or take time off of work,” Brownlie said. “It doesn’t increase the burden on physicians.”
In March, the Columbia Planned Parenthood clinic encountered a similar staffing problem and was unable to offer surgical abortions for more than a month. At the time, a spokeswoman said the halt was because of a difficulty scheduling nurses and other staff. She stressed that the surgeon who performed abortions in Columbia remained committed to the clinic and had been working there for years.
But abortion opponents have remained suspicious of official explanations. Local pro-life activist Kathy Forck said she believes doctors are simply unwilling to perform surgical abortions. Forck and others have long held vigils, prayed and protested outside the clinic. Later this month, activists will again hold a “40 Days for Life” vigil outside the local Planned Parenthood office.
“I would say that this is God’s victory,” Forck said. “God wants all of his children to live, so that is a victory for God, I can’t claim any victory.”
A representative of the My Life Clinic at 802 N. Providence, across the street from Planned Parenthood, similarly said it is difficult to gauge what is actually going on at the clinic because of its secrecy. Since 1992, My Life has offered services including sexual health information, limited ultrasound service, medical consultations and post-abortion recovery.
The My Life Clinic does not offer abortion referrals but often sees patients before or after they visit Planned Parenthood.
“We hear different things from different sources, but it’s difficult to find accurate and reliable information,” said Charity Quinn, executive director of the Life Network of Central Missouri. “It’s just one of those things that’s difficult because they’re not open about what’s going on over there.”
Quinn said her organization strives to be apolitical. It does not believe in abortion but doesn’t participate in protests, either. “We emphasize alternatives to abortion,” she said. “Because no matter what decision a woman makes regarding pregnancy, it will impact her life and an unborn life.”
Local news, I know, but certainly indicative of a problem widespread throughout this country. Obtaining a safe abortion shouldn't mean having to travel hours away from your home, or even jumping states, not to mention the new 24 hour waiting period law here in MO. I hold out hope that one day things will be different, but I'm not sure if it will be in my lifetime.