There's only one abortion clinic left in Missouri

By Jonah McKeown

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The March for Life in Washington, D.C., Jan. 27, 2017. Credit: Jeff Bruno.

Abortions at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia, Missouri ended this week after the facility failed to adhere to state rules, and its state license to perform abortions expired Oct. 3. This leaves Missouri with one clinic licensed to perform abortions, located in St. Louis.

“I am just thrilled, and I give all the honor and glory to God for this,” Kathy Forck, co-campaign leader of Columbia 40 Days for Life, told EWTN News. “We’re pretty confident that [Planned Parenthood] will never be able to recover from this latest blow.”

Forck said that her organization has been praying outside the Columbia clinic for nine years, and during that time abortions had ceased and resumed nine times.

“Even though they have stopped doing the abortions, they're still open to refer for abortions," she said. "And until that place actually closes its doors, we'll be out on the sidewalk offering help and hope to women and letting God use us to save babies by sending them across the street to MyLife Clinic [a pro-life pregnancy center]."

Missouri passed regulations in 2017 which granted the state attorney general more power to prosecute violations, and required stricter health codes and proper fetal tissue disposal. The new rules also required that doctors have surgical and admitting privileges to nearby hospitals, and that clinics meet hospital-like standards for outpatient surgery.

U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs temporarily blocked the regulations in April 2017, with the rationale that the rules were denying Missouri women a constitutional right to abortion. However, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month to end the district judge’s injunction, with a three-judge panel writing that the district judge failed to weigh any of the “benefits” that could proceed from the state’s rules.

This sends the case back to the district court for further consideration and allowed the rules to take effect Oct. 1. The Missouri DHSS announced last month that they would begin enforcing the new rules immediately.

The appellate court ruling comes in a case filed by Planned Parenthood affiliates in 2016 after the US Supreme Court struck down similar abortion restrictions in Texas.

In addition to the regulations, the Columbia clinic also must pass an inspection from the state’s Department of Health and Senior Services. According to the Columbia Missourian, a September inspection by the department found that the facility failed to “ensure a sanitary environment,” and was using equipment on which rust and substances believed to be mold and bodily fluids were found.

Doctors performing abortions in Missouri have been required since 2005 to have clinical privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. In 2015, University Hospital in Columbia revoked admitting privileges for a St. Louis-based doctor who had previously been performing abortions at the Columbia clinic.

"No one in Columbia wants to give [medical] privileges to the abortion industry," Forck commented. “They’ve tried and tried and they just can’t get it.”

She said 40 Days for Life attracts many members of the local medical community to their sidewalk prayer vigils, and that the Columbia clinic had lost seven abortion doctors since 2009.

Missouri law has held, since the 1980s, that life begins at conception. The state is now one of seven that has only one licensed abortion clinic.

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