Columbia Planned Parenthood clinic temporarily halts abortions

Thursday, September 2, 2010 | 6:37 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Planned Parenthood’s Columbia clinic has temporarily suspended its abortion services due to “scheduling issues,” leaving a St. Louis center as the only functioning abortion clinic in the state.

The Columbia clinic halted its abortion services two weeks ago, said Peter Brownlie, president of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. Brownlie said he doesn’t expect the stoppage to be “lengthy,” but couldn’t say when Columbia’s abortion services will resume.

Brownlie said the temporary suspension of abortions in Columbia is unrelated to a new state law that imposes new requirements on doctors and clinics that provide abortions. He would not elaborate on the reason, except to say it is related to “scheduling.”

“We don’t talk about our doctors and providers publicly, for security reasons,” he said, “because they’re subject to harassment and difficulties.”

Missouri Right to Life President Pam Fichter lauded the temporary halt in abortions.

“Any time an abortion clinic is not performing abortions, that’s a step in the right direction,” she said.

Abortion-rights supporters say the suspension of abortions in Columbia won’t change the minds of women who have decided on an abortion — it will only force them to travel farther.

“It’s not frivolous. It’s not like people say, ‘I’m gonna drive through the Burger King and pick up one of those,’” said Pamela Sumners, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri.

But Charity Quinn, executive director of the Life Network of Central Missouri, said she’s seen quite a few women leave Planned Parenthood for her abortion-alternatives clinic just across the street.

The closest abortion clinics to Columbia are now the Planned Parenthood clinics in St. Louis and in Overland Park, Kan. Women seeking an abortion will now have to make two trips under the new law, one to get a required consultation a full day before a planned abortion, and the other for the procedure itself.

Columbia’s Planned Parenthood is still open for other functions, including emergency contraception, STD testing, pregnancy testing, birth control services and education.

Brownlie said the majority of Planned Parenthood’s patients come for contraceptive services, as opposed to abortion.

The Columbia clinic previously suspended its abortion services in 1999 amid a controversy over state family planning funds. The clinic resumed surgical abortions in 2002, one year after Planned Parenthood's board of directors voted to discontinue accepting that money.

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