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Missouri governor won’t call special session on ectopic pregnancies, birth control

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announces his call for a special legislative session to pass a permanent state income tax cut on July, 1.
Sarah Kellogg
St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, photographed on July 1, said Thursday that he has no plans to call a special session to protects access to birth control and the ability of doctors to treat nonviable pregnancies. Missouri now bans most abortions, except in lifesaving emergencies. Doctors have called for the state to make clear what constitutes medical emergencies.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said Thursday that he will not call a special session to pass legislation to protect access to contraceptives and the ability of doctors to treat ectopic pregnancies.

Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Kansas City, and House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, called on the governor earlier this week to hold a special session to clarify that doctors can still help patients whose pregnancies are not viable and that birth control remains legal now that the state bans abortions.

During an appearance at API Innovation Center in Cortex, Parson said that if the legislature decides to address those issues, it should be during its normal session where they can speak with doctors and patients about health concerns.

“Bureaucrats and attorneys don't need to be the ones deciding on what is life threatening,” Parson said. “Doctors need to have a seat at that table, and frankly they're more qualified to be able to make that decision than anybody else is.”

The U.S. Supreme Court last month overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that long legalized abortion. Missouri then implemented a law passed by the Republican-controlled legislature that outlaws abortion except in cases of medical emergencies.

But doctors say the state’s ban will put more pregnant people at risk. A hospital system in Kansas City stopped prescribing emergency contraceptives out of confusion over the state’s abortion ban. The system has since reversed its decision after Parson and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt clarified that contraceptives are legal in the state.

“There is no issue on contraception, contraceptives are the same in the state of Missouri that they were three months ago, nothing whatsoever has changed in that category and pregnancy, ectopic pregnancy as well,” Parson said Thursday.

Quade said it’s unacceptable for the legislature to wait until next year to address contraception and medical emergencies.

“We have medical professional providers right now unsure on how they should be handling treatment of their patients,” Quade said. “We've seen hospitals already go back and forth on decisions on whether or not they provide things like emergency contraceptives. But when we're also talking about ectopic pregnancies, I have providers calling and asking, at what point do we intervene? And when we have such a law that is so unclear that medical providers still aren't sure what to be doing, we absolutely cannot wait any longer.”

The state’s Department of Health and Senior Services releaseda frequently asked questions document Wednesday to address questions on contraception and medical emergencies. The document states that doctors should use “reasonable medical judgment” to determine if a woman’s life is in danger. Quade said the document added more confusion over how prosecutors will determine if a woman’s life was in danger if a pregnancy was terminated.

The FAQ sheet notes local law enforcement, the state attorney general’s office and local prosecuting attorneys will prosecute anyone who violate state law.

“All of this should have been worked out, and we should know these answers before a lot is actually passed,” Quade said. “We still don't have clear-cut answers on who can be prosecuted and for what and what care can be given in our state is absolutely insane. No citizen deserves to live in a state where there is so much confusion around what laws are available.”

Rizzo said that’s more of a reason to ensure that access to contraceptives and the ability of doctors to treat ectopic pregnancies are protected by law.

“We're going to fight vehemently to get back to where we were before Roe is overturned, that's going to happen,” Rizzo said. “But in the meantime, this law that was triggered, needs to be clarified, to save women's lives when they're in emergency situations. Medical professionals and hospitals and doctors are all saying that right now. And there needs to be more clarification, what can and can't be done.”

Follow Chad on Twitter: @iamcdavis

Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.