reproductive rights

Missouri Official Admits to Tracking Women’s Periods

Photo: Cristina M. Fletes/AP

During the second day of a weeklong state hearing that will decide whether Missouri’s last abortion clinic will be shut down, the state’s heath director, Dr. Randall Williams, admitted to keeping a spreadsheet that tracked the menstrual periods of its patients. According to the Kansas City Star, Williams said he had requested that the state’s primary investigator identify patients who had undergone “failed abortions” at the St. Louis Planned Parenthood facility.

The spreadsheet was created using medical records the state investigator had access to, which included identification numbers and the date of the patients’ last menstrual period. The investigation into the clinic was prompted after inspectors found that it hadn’t filed a complication report with the state for one failed abortion. Inspectors then zeroed in on four cases in which patients had to return to the clinic more than once to successfully complete their abortions.

While not required, states can voluntary report abortion statistics to the CDC in order to gather legitimate public-health information. However, Planned Parenthood believes the Missouri state government abused its access and is using its licensing process to govern women’s bodies and to ultimately end abortion access. “As part of Gov. Parson’s effort to end abortion access in Missouri, Williams manufactured a solution in search of a problem,” Yamelsie Rodriguez, president and CEO, Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, said in a statement.

“This is the reality when people in power want to strip away our rights and freedoms,” Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, added. “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 … Every person deserves access to safe, legal abortion without fearing their personal information will be used to wage political war.”

The spreadsheet revelation is reminiscent of former Trump administration official Scott Lloyd’s admission from earlier this year that he had tracked the menstrual cycles of migrant girls and women in U.S. custody, which Rodriguez also referenced:

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 will always do what’s best for patients, and that will guide any decisions we make about how we continue fighting for abortion access.

The hearing is scheduled to continue for the remainder of the week, and a decision will be announced in February at the earliest.

Missouri Official Admits to Tracking Women’s Periods