Missouri Health Dept. Admits Keeping Track Of Women’s Menstrual Cycles (Video)

While the Missouri state government sights in its crosshairs the St. Louis Region Planned Parenthood, the last operational women’s reproductive clinic in the state, health director Randall Williams admitted last week the health department had been maintaining a spreadsheet of Planned Parenthood patients containing personal information including the date of their last menstrual periods.

According to the Kansas City Star, which broke the story, the spreadsheet also includes “medical identification numbers, dates of medical procedures and the gestational ages of fetuses.”

The spreadsheet’s objective, as revealed at a hearing for the fate of the last clinic, is to investigate “failed” abortions for which patients needed to return to Planned Parenthood to complete their procedures.

The health department refuses to renew the clinic’s abortion license, which has led Planned Parenthood to sue.

If the license is not renewed, Missouri will become the first state in the union without a clinic able to provide abortions since the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe versus Wade ruling that legalized abortion.

According to The Kansas City Star:

Williams testified that the investigation of Planned Parenthood began after state inspectors found evidence of a failed abortion that didn’t have a corresponding complication report logged with the state.

The investigation eventually found four patients that had to return to Planned Parenthood more than once to have a successful surgical abortion. The ‘failed’ abortions led the department to have ‘grave concerns’ that caused it to withhold the St. Louis clinic’s license.”

Bonyen Lee-Gilmore, state media campaigns director at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said:

“The frightening reality is, as the DHSS Director, Randall Williams has access to abortion reports, which in this case included information on menstrual cycles of Missouri women.”

President and CEO of the St. Louis Region of Planned Parenthood, Yamelsie Rodriguez, stated:

“Today’s revelation is deeply disturbing. Missouri politicians have gone too far. This is government overreach at its worst. It shadows the Trump administration’s history of tracking the periods of refugee girls under the government’s care. This is outrageous and disgusting.”  

Planned Parenthood Acting President, Alexis McGill Johnson, said in a statement:

“This is the reality when people in power want to strip away our rights and freedoms. They force medically unnecessary pelvic exams, investigate menstrual cycles, and do whatever it takes to take control of our bodies, our lives, and our futures. Enough is enough. Every person deserves access to safe, legal abortion without fearing their personal information will be used to wage political war.” 

Of course, this isn’t the first instance government officials have meddled in women’s private matters.

Jennifer Wright wrote in Harper’s Bazaar in April:

“We still don’t know where 1,488 migrant children are. The U.S. government lost them. They admit as much. Even though the court ordered a halt to the policy of family separation, 245 more children have been taken from their parents. So they can’t figure out where children separated from their parents are, but by God, they can keep track of teenage migrant girls’ menstrual cycles.

“There are 28 pages detailing the periods, pregnancies and reason for the pregnancy (whether by rape or not) of teen girls in custody, some of whom are as young as 12. There may well be reasons for the government to track whether or not a woman is pregnant, and how far along in her pregnancy she is, but there’s no reason to track the cause of her pregnancy. It’s pretty fair to assume that they’re not doing this because they want to ensure women know all the options regarding their pregnancy. It’s almost certainly an attempt to bar them from getting abortions.”

In August, Planned Parenthood announced the White House compelled it to decline Title X funding intended to provide healthcare to over a million low-income women lest it be subjected to the administration’s “domestic gag rule,” wherein healthcare providers receiving funds for counseling patients about reproductive options that may include abortion will lose that funding if the word “abortion” is even used.

According to the Planned Parenthood website, more than four million people rely on Title X funding for access to contraception, wellness exams, cervical and breast cancer screenings, contraception education, and sexually transmitted disease (STD) including HIV testing.

Each year, publicly funded birth control services, including Title X, prevent 1.9 million unintended pregnancies, including 440,000 teen pregnancies.

Title X has allowed women and their families more autonomy over their bodies, family planning, professions, education, and economic concerns.

For those who scream about not wanting their tax dollars funding abortion, they should know that since 1976, the Hyde Amendment has prohibited Medicaid funding for abortion services. In other words, it is illegal for Medicaid money to be put toward abortion even if a woman’s health is at risk and her doctor recommends abortion.

Earlier this year, Alabama opened the proverbial reproductive flood gates after governor Kay Ivey signed the most restrictive abortion ban in the nation.

Under this legislation, pregnancy begins at the moment of conception, and doctors who perform abortions for cases other than extreme risk to pregnant mothers’ lives will face 99 years in prison, even in cases of rape and incest.

One week before, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a similar bill that bans abortion after six weeks, a point at which doctors can usually detect a fetal heartbeat, before most women even realize they are pregnant.

Ohio governor Mike DeWine has signed a bill nearly identical to Georgia’s.

Missouri advanced a bill 24-10 to criminalize abortions at 8 weeks.

More than a dozen states this year have sought to outlaw abortion.

LouisianaMissouriSouth Carolina, and Tennessee, have advanced anti-choice bills past one chamber of its legislature.

MarylandMinnesotaNew YorkTexas, and West Virginia, have also introduced anti-choice legislation.

All told, 61 anti-choice bills have been introduced across the country.

Back in May, when Alabama took a flamethrower to reproductive rights, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted:

“Women’s rights are under attack. This relentless and cruel Republican assault on women’s health is designed to force a court battle to destroy Roe v. Wade. Democrats will be ready to defend health care and women’s reproductive freedom.”

And it’s exactly what the religious right expected to get when it threw its wholehearted support behind the mendacious thrice-married philanderer Donald J. Trump for president and his “Christian” running mate, Michael Pence.

It was Pence, who, as Indiana governor ordered Purvi Patel imprisoned for 20 years for having a miscarriage, alleging she had taken an abortifacient, despite tests confirming Patel did not have any drugs in her system.

Just before being elected vice president, Pence signed legislation requiring miscarried and aborted fetuses “interred or cremated,” regardless of pregnancy duration.

This was the impetus behind the “Periods for Pence,” movement, in which women tweeted or called Pence’s office to inform him when their periods started and ended so the state wouldn’t mistake their usual menstruation periods for miscarriages.

Years before–also on Pence’s watch–Bei Bei Shuai spent 435 days of a 45-year sentence in the Marion County, Indiana maximum security prison for attempting suicide, causing her 33-week fetus to die.

Then there is 28-year-old Melissa Ann Rowland of Utah, charged with murder after refusing to deliver her twins via Caesarean section.

One of those twins died.

Mississippi charged sixteen-year-old Rennie Gibbs with “depraved heart murder” after her baby was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around its neck, causing its death.

According to state prosecutors, Gibbs had traces of cocaine in her bloodstream.

Angela Carder was also ordered to have a C-section before she succumbed to cancer.

Both she and the baby died during the procedure.

According to the Duke University Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, there were 413 documented cases of women prosecuted for miscarrying or attempting abortions between the when Roe v. Wade became the law in 1973 and 2005.

Is this version of Christian “Sharia Law” what we can expect in America’s future?

After all, we were warned.

Three years ago, Donald Trump admitted “There has to be some form of punishment” for women who have abortions.

Trump’s affection for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is well documented.

So maybe he and the GOP are interested in following the Middle-Eastern kingdom’s Orwellian practice of unleashing their police on “badly behaved women.”

Exactly what Jesus would have done, right?

Although reproductive rights have always been a political football since Roe v. Wade‘s signing, and there have been prognosticators that have predicted its demise before, we are hard-pressed to think of time in recent memory when the religious right has been so emboldened and women’s rights so threatened.

What country do we want America to be?

We know what conservatives want.

They want to “end” abortions (except for mostly white women of means).

Is this who we are?

Image credit: www.theslowlane.org

Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, and Medium.