"Missouri politicians have gone too far. Tracking patients' periods is government overreach at its worst and a major violation of privacy."
In a revelation Tuesday that Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri described as "deeply disturbing," the state health director Dr. Randall Williams testified at an administrative commission hearing that he kept a spreadsheet to track Planned Parenthood patients' menstrual periods.
Williams' testimony came as part of a contentious legal battle over the Missouri Health Department's refusal to renew the license for Planned Parenthood's clinic in St. Louis, which is the state's last remaining abortion care provider.
We've learned deeply disturbing information: Randall Williams, the director of @GovParsonMO’s Dept. of Health & Sen… https://t.co/G1rOTUv6Cw— Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri (@Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri)1572376463.0
The Kansas City Star reported that Williams, an OB-GYN appointed to his position in 2017, "said the spreadsheet was made at his request by the state's main investigator to identify patients who had undergone failed abortions."
According to the newspaper:
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 spreadsheet, which was based on the medical records the investigator had access to, also included identification numbers and the date of the last menstrual period of each patient.
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.
Responding to Williams' testimony in a series of tweets Tuesday, Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri declared that "Missouri politicians have gone too far. Tracking patients' periods is government overreach at its worst and a major violation of privacy."
"This is more evidence of how [Gov. Mike Parson] and his health department have weaponized the licensing process to attack Planned Parenthood and end abortion access in Missouri," the group added. "Health officials clearly took advantage of the licensure process to access patient records and use that information to conduct a witch hunt with one goal: to end abortion access."
Pro-choice advocates and political commentators responded with outrage to The Kansas City Star's report on social media:
The government keeping a spreadsheet to track when women have their periods in an effort to control their reproduct… https://t.co/v1O5iE53R4— Alex Witt (@Alex Witt)1572375939.0
The headline speaks to the gross and desperate tactics that some politicians will resort to take away our access to… https://t.co/MABAei9IYk— RHAP (@RHAP)1572381894.0
From unnecessary, invasive, pelvic exams to accessing patient records and tracking patients' periods, it's clear th… https://t.co/7SoM6w20lg— Missouri Democrats (@Missouri Democrats)1572380038.0
Look we can snark about conservatives and tracking periods but the reality is enforcing abortion bans means the gov… https://t.co/815OTQYEVO— Jessica Mason Pieklo (@Jessica Mason Pieklo)1572376662.0
After Planned Parenthood filed suit against the state health department in June, a state court judge referred the case to the Missouri Administrative Hearing Commission. The first hearing before the independent arbiter was Monday.
"Missouri would become the first state since 1974, the year after the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, without a functioning abortion clinic if the license revocation is allowed," The Associated Press noted in its reporting on the hearing Monday.
As Common Dreams reported earlier this month, faced with the prospect of Missouri patients losing access to abortion care across the state, Planned Parenthood announced "the opening of a new, large facility in neighboring Illinois—construction of which was done in secret to avoid protests." It is located less than 20 miles from the St. Louis clinic.