Opening Arguments in Missouri Planned Parenthood Licensing Case Reveal Unsafe Abortions

By Cheryl Sullenger

St. Louis, MO – Opening statements and testimony in a licensing dispute between RHS Planned Parenthood, Missouri’s only operational abortion facility, and the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) focused on evidence of unsafe abortions at the Planned Parenthood clinic.

According to the Associated Press, opening arguments made by Assistant Attorney General John Sauer related cases of horrifically botched abortions that placed the lives of women in danger. Later, Planned Parenthood’s attorneys presented information that supposedly refuted concerns that the facility was unsafe.

The AP reported:

Assistant Attorney General John Sauer outlined cases of “failed abortions,” including one where a woman had to have up to five procedures to complete the abortion, and another where the doctor failed to recognize that a patient was pregnant with twins, requiring a second procedure to remove the second fetus.

Planned Parenthood attorney Chuck Hatfield played a video deposition of a health department official indicating the clinic is not unsafe.

Operation Rescue, with the help of local pro-life activists, has documented 74 medical emergencies that required patient transport by ambulance at RHS Planned Parenthood.

Dr. Donna Harrison, executive director of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (APLOG) was the first witness for the state.  She is an expert who testifies nationally in support of pro-life legislation

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Dr. Harrison testified that Planned Parenthood provided “flawed” treatment of four women who suffered serious complications from what the state called “failed” abortions at RHS Planned Parenthood.  She reviewed the patient records for this case and found them confusing and inconsistent.

A 62-page inspection report obtained by Operation Rescue earlier this year before it was placed under seal, revealed deficiencies in meeting patient care standards for the four women who received the bungled abortions. These incidents, served as the basis for the DHSS’s disputed decision not to renew RHS Planned Parenthood’s abortion license.

The women at issue were forced to endure multiple abortions and/or were hospitalized due to poor skill and decision-making by several abortionists who worked at RHS Planned Parenthood.  Abortionists and abortion trainees who participated in these abortions refused to cooperate with the DHSS investigation. 

Patient 1 received the first of three abortion attempts at approximately 8 weeks of pregnancy on September 5, 2018.  The gestational age of her pregnancy was misdiagnosed to be 6 weeks or less by a trainee with the Fellowship of Family Planning, a two-year abortion training program operated by the radical University of California San Francisco’s Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health.  This trainee failed to realize the actual position of the woman’s uterus. The first attempt at an abortion failed.  Patient 1 was then given abortion drugs, which also failed.  Finally, on the third attempt a week later was finally successful. 

Patient 2 received a surgical abortion on May 26, 2018 at 10 weeks 4 days of pregnancy.  Records showed that fetal parts were observed during the abortion.  However, about three weeks later, Patient 2 called Planned Parenthood and reported still feeling pregnant.  By the time she reported to the abortion facility two weeks later, she was in her second trimester.  Either the abortionist failed to detect a twin, or he or she lied about seeing fetal parts.  Patient 2 was later admitted to the hospital after seeking help at the emergency room.  She has become septic due to complications to the second abortion.

Patient 3 received an abortion at RHS Planned Parenthood on July 19, 2018, at seven weeks of pregnancy.  It was done by the same trainee who failed to abort Patient 1’s baby.  On August 24, a full month after her first abortion attempt, Patient 3 contacted RHS Planned Parenthood an told them she just returned from her doctor’s office and was told by her doctor that she was 12 weeks pregnant.  While paperwork indicated that abortionist Colleen McNicholas, the new medical director for Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, was present during the procedure, she admitted that she did not remember being in the procedure room and that she often does not personally observe abortions done by trainees.  McNicholas finally conducted a complete abortion on Patient 3 on August 28, 2018. 

Patient 12 suffered a horrific ordeal due to RHS Planned Parenthood’s deviation from the standard of care.  Patient 12, a woman with a previous C-Section delivery, was admitted to Washington University Hospital with bleeding at 21 weeks of pregnancy. She was diagnosed with placenta previa, a condition where the placenta covers all or part of the opening to the womb.  An RHS Planned Parenthood who was affiliated with that hospital recommended that Patient 12 go to Planned Parenthood for a second trimester abortion, even though the clinic was not equipped to handle this potentially dangerous pregnancy complication.  (C-Sections delivery is recommended, not abortion.)

On April 24, 2019, during laminaria insertion into her cervix in preparation for the abortion, Patient 12 began to hemorrhage uncontrollably and was transported by ambulance to Barnes Jewish Hospital.  She lost 2.5 liters of blood – a life-threatening amount – and underwent a special procedure to save her life.  She was admitted to the intensive care unit in critical condition. 

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The licensing hearing is expected to run through Friday, November 1, 2019, but a decision in the case is not expected until February 2020, at the earliest.

But the entire licensing fight could be a ruse on Planned Parenthood’s part.  Last week it opened an 18,000 square-foot abortion facility across the Mississippi River in Fairview Heights, Illinois, where abortion laws were recently relaxed.  Abortion appointments can only be made at the Illinois facility right now, Operation Rescue confirmed.

“It is very possible that Planned Parenthood is disputing the loss of their abortion license in Missouri because their supporters expect them to,” said Troy Newman, President of Operation Rescue.  “They are setting themselves to become martyrs in Missouri, while they flee to Illinois where they do not have to worry about such mundane things as abortion safety standards.” 

There are indications that Planned Parenthood does not want their Missouri abortion license renewed, based on their open hostility to the DHSS and refusal to cooperate with their investigations.

“Abortion numbers are shrinking in Missouri and Illinois, and there is just not enough abortion business to keep both clinics and a competitor in nearby Granite City, Illinois, afloat,” said Newman.  “I expect that in the end, the Administrative Hearing Commission will side with the DHSS, and Planned Parenthood will flee across the river for good.  But the bright side is that currently, abortions are not being done in Missouri, and may never resume there.  Missouri is making history!”

Read the documents central to this case:

  • A 4-page letter from DHSS to RHS Planned Parenthood that calls RHS Planned Parenthood’s non-cooperation with the investigation “unprecedented and untenable.”  The letter required that an acceptable and detailed Plan of Correction be submitted to the DHSS by June 18, 2019. (View) No acceptable plan was made.
  • A 62-page deficiency report dated May 28, 2019, based on the complaint investigation that found that includes violations in patient care standards for Patients 1, 2, 3, and 12, along with a litany of other violations. (View)