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Health concerns continue at Columbia abortion provider, AG claims

Planned Parenthood inspection

The state attorney general's office argued that a recent health inspection at the Columbia Planned Parenthood clinic proves why the state needs stricter laws regulating abortions.

An unannounced inspection by the Department of Health on Wednesday found the clinic had a rusty suction aspiration machine in its operating room. Tubes connected to the machine had a "reddish colored fluid" that was "most likely bodily fluid" as well as a "blackish-gray substance on the inside the length of the tubing" that a Planned Parenthood staff member said was mold.

Solicitor General Dean Sauer said the inspection proved Planned Parenthood should not get a pass from abiding by new state laws on Oct. 1 as it requested. The company asked a federal judge to issue another temporary restraining order to block ambulatory surgical center requirements and requirements that doctors get medical privileges before performing abortions in the state. An appeals court reversed a decision this month that did block them, saying that it was unclear if the rules were needed based on how safe or unsafe abortions were in the state.

Sauer said the Columbia inspection goes to a "pattern and practice of failing to comply with basic sanitation practices." Even if the court allows the restraining order, Sauer said the Columbia clinic would have to still correct its cleanliness problems to get a renewed license from the state. Its current license expires Oct. 2.

"Those rusted areas serve as havens for bacteria and subject women to health risks," Sauer said. "After Oct. 2, the Columbia facility cannot conduct any more abortions until the facility complies with sanitation regulations, as determined by another inspection."

Emily Miller, spokeswoman for Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said it has addressed the issues pointed out in the state inspection and provided the state with receipts to prove it.

“The state of Missouri’s court filings contain grossly inaccurate claims about the safety of our health services in an effort to further restrict access to abortion," Miller said. "Planned Parenthood’s top priority is providing high-quality care to our patients, including safe, legal abortion, and we won’t waver in our effort to protect access to health care."

Planned Parenthood Great Plains relied on a 2016 Supreme Court decision striking down similar laws in Texas over abortion provider regulations. While a Missouri district judge agreed with them in 2017, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals said the Supreme Court case only decided that the rules were unnecessary in Texas. The court ordered a district judge to analyze the safety and security of Missouri's abortions.

Planned Parenthood said the rate of major complications following first trimester abortions in Missouri is 0.14 percent, and 0.45 percent for second trimester abortions. Both numbers were consistent with what the Supreme Court relied on in 2016. Just 21 of the nearly 25,000 patients who received an abortion in Missouri needed to be transferred to the hospital, the company argued.

The hearing on the temporary restraining order will take place at 9 a.m. in Jefferson City.


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