The House Oversight and Reform Committee heard from expert witnesses about the multilayered attacks on reproductive rights in Missouri and across the country.
The hearing follows weeks of outrage sparked by revelations that Missouri health department officials investigated the menstrual cycles of patients in order to further a political agenda against abortion.
WASHINGTON – Following the shocking admission by Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s top health official Dr. Randall Williams, that he investigated the menstrual cycles of Planned Parenthood patients, today the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform heard expert testimony on state-level restrictions and political attacks against abortion both in Missouri and across the country. Dr. Colleen McNicholas, chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri was the first doctor to publicly testify before Congress on behalf of Planned Parenthood in decades. She joined Missouri patient Jennifer Box in giving a firsthand account of the nearly-impossible landscape politicians have created for people who need access to abortion.
A several months’ long fight over Planned Parenthood’s abortion facility license in Missouri exposed a web of medically unnecessary regulatory schemes created to deny the license for the last remaining abortion health center in the state. Today’s hearing allowed congressional leaders to hear firsthand what restrictions in different states mean for patients and their doctors.
Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, Acting President and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
“We commend Dr. McNicholas and Jennifer Box for speaking truth to power. They gave voice to countless patients who state politicians forced into impossible circumstances just to get basic health care. From medically unnecessary pelvic exams to investigating menstrual cycles, anti-abortion politicians are violating our rights and freedoms, and with it, our trust in them to do what’s right. They are using every trick in the book to ban abortion not just in Missouri but all across the country. Abortion access in America hangs by a thread, and we remain committed to fighting for our patients, no matter what. We call on Congress to shed a light on abuses of power — wherever they occur.”
Excerpt from the opening statement of Jennifer Box, Planned Parenthood patient in Missouri:
“And let me be clear: my story does not give anyone the right to make judgments about good reasons and bad reasons for choosing an abortion. A fetal diagnosis was my reason. But nobody should have to explain themselves or compare their stories to justify a deeply personal decision…Members of Congress: I urge you to remember who you represent. I am the one in four women who will have had an abortion in her lifetime. You have the power to change a broken system working against us, and I ask that you act in our best interests.”
Excerpt from the opening statement of Dr. Colleen McNicholas, Chief Medical Officer, Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region:
“Missourians want to believe state officials charged with protecting public health have their best interest in mind. They want to trust that, when they go to the doctor, their private medical information will not be mined by the department of health as part of a political fishing expedition. Governor Parson and Director Williams have repeatedly violated the trust of our community, and compromised my patients’ safety, to push a political agenda.”
Witnesses testifying before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform also included Marcela Howell of In Our Own Voice and Fatima Goss Graves of the National Women’s Law Center.
Today’s congressional hearing comes as state politicians become increasingly more hostile to reproductive health and rights under the Trump administration. Since 2011, states like Missouri have enacted more than 450 abortion restrictions that serve no other purpose than to erode access. This year, states like Missouri went beyond legislative attacks and weaponized the licensing process in order to ban abortion. This is in addition to the 26 different abortion bans enacted in 12 states in 2019 alone. Last month, Missouri health officials testified that their inspections processes are driven by pressure from anti-abortion legislators as well as protesters outside the Planned Parenthood health center in St. Louis.
Meanwhile, the sustained effort to ban and restrict abortion in states has also triggered a counter-movement of reproductive health champions, resulting in major electoral victories in Kentucky and Virginia earlier this month. Support for Roe v. Wade is at its highest level: 77 percent of Americans say they do not want to see Roe overturned. In nearly half the states, champions pushed for bills that codify abortion rights into state law in 2019 to repeal harmful policies that created barriers to care, and treat abortion as health care, not a crime. Illinois, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont joined nine other states with laws protecting the right to abortion — creating critical backstops to the Trump administration.
Clip of Jennifer Box, patient advocate, standing up to anti-abortion politicians and pundits can be found here.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.