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UPDATE: Missouri health system reverses course, resumes offering emergency contraception after assurances

The Republican-led state of Missouri has accidentally, or perhaps intentionally, banned a key birth control method.

According to the Kansas City Star, PlanB, emergency contraception, which does not cause abortions, is no longer being used by Saint Luke's Health System. The hospitals usually give PlanB to women who have come in after experiencing being raped. Now, Missouri doesn't allow any options for women faced with rape or incest.

Saint Luke's has 16 hospitals and campuses around the region in both Missouri and Kansas, but after the Supreme Court eliminated the privacy women enjoy around their own reproductive health, the Missouri law went into effect.

“To ensure we adhere to all state and federal laws—and until the law in this area becomes better defined—Saint Luke’s will not provide emergency contraception at our Missouri-based locations,” Saint Luke’s spokesperson Laurel Gifford said in a statement.

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Among the things that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas advocated in his personal dissent was that he wanted to eliminate birth control for all women, which fell under the 1965 ruling Griswold v. Connecticut. The case declared by a 7-2 decision that the Constitution protects the right of marital privacy against state restrictions "on a couple's ability to be counseled in the use of contraceptives," explained Cornell’s Legal Information Institute.

Thomas and the new revelations about Missouri's law add to concern that any hospital giving PlanB could be at risk legally.

“First, the Missouri law is ambiguous but may be interpreted as criminalizing emergency contraception,” Gifford said. “As a System that deeply cares about its team, we simply cannot put our clinicians in a position that might result in criminal prosecution.”

Additionally, the same care can be provided at Saint Luke’s Kansas facilities “safely, legally, and without putting our clinicians at legal risk,” the statement explained.

“It’s important for survivors to know that if they are concerned that they need emergency contraception as part of their health care following a rape, that they should not go to Saint Luke’s Missouri,” said Kansas City-based Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault. president Julie Donelon.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who is also running for U.S. Senate in the Republican primary, has the ability to prosecute anyone violating abortion bans in the state. However, Kansas City area prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, for Jackson County, said she will use her prosecutorial discretion to decide whether to charge anyone. She intends to limit the "erosion" of reproductive freedoms, she said.

Read the full report at the Kansas City Star.

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