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Media headlines about Missouri tracking women’s periods ‘couldn’t be any more misleading’

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MISSOURI, November 1, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – As the last abortion center in Missouri fights state health officials to keep its license, many in the media have attempted to discredit the state with misleading headlines about the patient records in its possession.

Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region has been fighting the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services over its annual license renewal, arguing that the state is trying to “intimidate” abortionists by making renewal contingent on interviewing them about patient complaints. 

The abortion giant filed a lawsuit at St. Louis Circuit Court seeking a restraining order to preserve its license, without which it would have had to stop committing abortions after the license expired in June. Health officials want to interview five contract physicians regarding seven incidents flagged by inspectors, which Planned Parenthood opposes on the grounds that its answers could lead to criminal charges.

Hearings began in the case this week, as have numerous headlines concerning a spreadsheet of abortion patient data maintained by state health director Dr. Randall Williams as part of the government’s efforts to identifiy failed abortions. Among the pieces of data on the spreadsheet is women’s last menstrual period (LMP).

Numerous stories at the Washington Post (“Missouri didn’t track Planned Parenthood patients’ periods to protect women. It was to control them”), CNN (“State-controlled spreadsheet on women's periods is outrageous”), TIME (“Missouri's State Health Department Kept Spreadsheet Tracking Menstrual Periods of Planned Parenthood Patients”), the Riverfront Times (“What Tracking Women's Periods Says About Missouri's Anti-Abortion Scheme”), Vox (“Missouri's Spreadsheet of Women's Periods Wasn't Illegal — But Experts Think It Was Pretty Creepy”), and elsewhere pushed the notion that the state was fixating on the LMP information, and/or using it in some sort of strange or improper way.

“Tracking to me implies ‘Oh, she had a period again, let’s put that in a spreadsheet,’ and that’s simply not true,” health department spokeswoman Lisa Cox told the New York Times, explaining that LMP dates are simply cross-referenced with abortion dates to get an accurate count of abortions at the facility. “This was a one-time data pull from information Planned Parenthood had already provided.”

The pro-life Equal Rights Institute also took issue with the coverage, noting that the data (of which LMP dates were just one of many items) helped the state determine that four patients had returned to the facility on multiple occasions to complete the same surgical abortion.

“LMP is common medical information relevant to pregnancy,” the group said. “This headline is meant to paint a picture of government employees tracking women's fertility which couldn't be any more misleading!”

While the press focuses on the “period-tracking” furor, there remain grave concerns about the St. Louis facility’s treatment of women, from more than 70 instances of calling an ambulance to 30 state citations of medical malpractice, including complications in four surgical abortions.

A decision in the case is not expected to be reached until February. If the St. Louis facility is ultimately forced to stop committing abortions, the next closest abortion facilities will be in Granite City, Illinois (10 miles from St. Louis) or Kansas City, Kansas (260 miles from St. Louis).

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