Missouri’s top health official reportedly testified Tuesday that the state’s health department tracked the menstrual cycles of Planned Parenthood patients through a spreadsheet.
Dr. Randall Williams, the director of the state’s health department, confirmed the spreadsheet’s existence during testimony before the Administrative Hearing Commission tasked with determining the fate of the state’s last abortion clinic. He said the purpose of the spreadsheet was to identify what he considered to be failed abortions, according to the Kansas City Star.
The spreadsheet included identification numbers and the date of each patient’s last menstrual period and was part of a wider investigation to determine whether patients returned to a St. Louis branch of Planned Parenthood more than once in the same year to complete their abortions, according to the Star. A state investigator also had access to the spreadsheet.
A spokeswoman for the health department clarified Wednesday that the information was legally obtained, did not name the patients, and did not violate their privacy. She also said Williams had not ordered or maintained the spreadsheet personally.
The state has alleged it discovered evidence of four women who needed to return to the clinic to “complete” their abortions, according to the Star. Planned Parenthood’s attorneys found the spreadsheet through the legal discovery process, as it was attached to an email with the subject line “Director’s Request.”
“Missouri politicians have gone too far. This is government overreach at its worst," said Yamelsie Rodriguez, president of Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, in a statement Tuesday.
The St. Louis clinic is currently fighting for the ability to continue performing abortions after the state’s health department refused to renew its license over “deficiencies” it found through an investigative process earlier this year.
In exchange for a renewed license, the state wanted Planned Parenthood to complete a series of tasks to be in compliance, including making its physicians available for state investigators. That was the only ask Planned Parenthood wouldn’t agree to, since several of their physicians aren’t direct employees and can’t be forced into interviews.
Williams also testified Tuesday that two of those physicians have since been deposed, and that they were able to provide helpful information about the four incomplete abortions. That information led him to believe the state can find a workable solution with Planned Parenthood.
"While these things are very concerning — they are grave — I think going forward they are imminently fixable," Williams said, according to the Associated Press.
The clinic is still open and performing abortions. The Administrative Hearing Commission’s hearing will continue all week, but a ruling won’t come until February at the earliest, according to the Associated Press.
CORRECTION 10/31: This story and headline have been updated to reflect that the Missouri Director of Health Randall Williams did not testify that he personally kept a spreadsheet of Planned Parenthood patients' menstrual cycles. The story also includes the Missouri Department of Health's response.
Cover: Dr. Randall Williams, Director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, speaks with reporters outside the courthouse after Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer heard his testimony concerning the renewal of Planned Parenthood's abortion clinic license on Wednesday, June 5, 2019, in St. Louis. (Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)