State health officials dispute MSNBC report on pelvic exam requirements

6 months 5 days 20 hours ago Monday, June 10 2019 Jun 10, 2019 Monday, June 10, 2019 2:45:00 PM CDT June 10, 2019 in News
By: Sydney Moran, KOMU 8 Digital Producer

JEFFERSON CITY - The Department of Health and Senior Services said Monday a report by MSNBC had inaccurate information regarding the state of abortion services in Missouri.

According to the department, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow reported on the strict new abortion laws in Missouri on June 7. She went on to discuss Dr. Randall Williams and the required pelvic exams for woman seeking an abortion. Maddow said in the newscast that Dr. Williams "decided that doctors in that clinic must now make their patients get unnecessary pelvic exams when they ask for an abortion on his orders."

A news release sent out by the DHSS said a pelvic examination has been required since at least 1988 as part of the mandatory health assessment. The exam is intended to identify  factors that could influence the choice of the procedure, among other things. 

The amendment added to this rule in 2018 changed the language, though the DHSS said the amendment was not changed overall. The amendment is worded as follows:

“A written medical history shall be obtained for each patient. A health assessment including a pelvic examination shall be performed. Pregnancy shall be confirmed by clinical evidence and laboratory tests. This information shall be used in determining the duration of gestation, identifying preexisting medical or other complications, and detecting any factors which could influence the choice of the procedure, anesthesia, or preoperative and postoperative management.”

The informed consent time increased from the 24-hour time period created in 2010 to a 72-hour period created in 2014. The doctor must inform the woman of the proposed abortion method and the immediate and long-term risks. A pelvic examination must also be done at the 72-hour mark.

The requirement to do the pelvic exam 72 hours prior to the procedure is state law, not departmental policy, the DHSS said in a news release.

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