In their relentless quest to build a case against Planned Parenthood and deny Missouri women the right to control their own bodies, state officials have gone full “Handmaid’s Tale,” literally tracking women’s menstrual cycles on a spreadsheet without their knowledge.
News of this outrage, casually revealed during a hearing Tuesday, should put to rest any notion that this persecution of the state’s only abortion clinic is actually about concern for women’s health. It’s about using the power of the state to violate women’s medical privacy while promoting the extremist ideological agenda of ruling Republicans.
State GOP leaders have now shown that they regard those women as little more than data points to be exploited in service to that goal. This cries out for an independent investigation.
At issue is the state’s attempt to shut down Planned Parenthood’s Forest Park Avenue clinic in St. Louis. The state’s claim is that four instances of so-called “failed” abortions, requiring the patients to return to the clinic, justifies stripping its license. Four out of 3,000 abortions performed last year required followup procedures — a complication rate that the state itself was forced to admit is in line with national averages.
State officials found those four cherry-picked cases by using patient medical records to build a spreadsheet of the women’s medical details, including data on their menstrual cycles, to isolate those who returned to the clinic. That’s according to testimony in this week’s administrative hearing about the clinic’s fate.
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Officials say the records that were used didn’t include the women’s names, but with so much other personal information involved, it’s certainly conceivable they could be identified in other ways. In a state that refuses to collect even the most basic information about people who carry guns in public or who abuse opioid painkillers, the most intimate medical details of women who’d done nothing but seek legal medical service was passed from state computer to state computer as part of a campaign to ultimately deny other women that service.
Democrats have called on Republican Gov. Mike Parson to launch an investigation to determine whether this exposed patients’ identities or violated laws that protect medical privacy. In fact, such an investigation should be undertaken from outside this administration, given Parson’s stated bias regarding abortion rights.
Planned Parenthood said it best in a statement: “This is government overreach at its worst. ... This is outrageous and disgusting.”
It’s also sadly predictable. Once ideologically driven politicians set the goal of denying women the right to control their own bodies, it isn’t all that surprising if their methods descend to levels that show outright contempt for the privacy of the very women they claim, falsely, that they’re trying to protect.