Late Wednesday afternoon, Saint Luke’s Health System, which operates several facilities in both Kansas and Missouri, announced it will resume providing pregnant survivors of rape and incest with emergency contraception, following statements from Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt (R) and Governor Mike Parson (R).
Hours after The Kansas City Star reported that Saint Luke’s hospitals would stop giving Plan B to pregnant survivors of rape and incest to avoid violating the state’s abortion bans, a Kansas City television station asked Schmitt whether the group’s decision was a correct interpretation of the state’s ban on abortion. “Missouri law does not prohibit the use or provision of Plan B, or contraception,” a spokesperson for Schmitt responded. Additionally, Parson’s office released a more in-depth statement clarifying state lawmakers’ position on abortion care.
“An abortion is defined in Missouri law as taking action with the intent to destroy an embryo or fetus,” a spokesperson for Parson said. “Abortion and contraception are different things, one ends life while the other prevents pregnancy. A medical professional’s intent when prescribing medication is always relevant to the lawfulness of their action.”
Following the response from the Attorney General’s office, a Saint Luke’s spokesperson called Schmitt’s response a “significant update,” and the group released a substantial statement announcing that it would once again offer emergency contraception to rape survivors in hospitals:
Saint Luke’s Health System is aware of and continues to closely monitor legal developments regarding Missouri’s abortion trigger law, including recent comments from the Missouri Attorney General’s Office and the Governor of Missouri regarding the use of emergency contraceptives. Following further internal review, Saint Luke’s will now resume providing emergency contraceptives, under new protocols, at all Missouri-based Saint Luke’s hospitals and clinics.
However, the statement went on to note that the state’s law remains slightly opaque, and there is “uncertainty even among state officials” about what the abortion ban prohibits. It’s also of concern—for all in-state medical groups—that the penalty for violation of the law allows for the prosecution of health care providers. They also risk having their medical license revoked. Parson’s emphasis on the word “intent” is troubling, as it could easily be argued in the prosecution’s favor.
As of now, Saint Luke’s Health Center is the only medical group serving the Kansas City region to publicly suggest they would stop providing emergency contraceptives to pregnant survivors of rape and incest.