Planned Parenthood to offer medication abortions in Columbia

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COLUMBIA - Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri (PPKM) has announced it will offer expanded health care services in Columbia. PPKM also added two insurance providers, Coventry Health Care and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Missouri, to its list of accepted providers, effective July 1.

Coventry is the group that covers the University of Missouri system. Laura McQuade, CEO of PPKM, said adding these insurance providers is very important for coverage.

"What's really important is that we reach as many patients as possible," McQuade said.

With Coventry being such a major provider in Columbia, McQuade said it was key to add it to the list of accepted providers.

Adding insurance providers wasn't the only big news from PPKM, though.

Beginning August 1, PPKM also plans to bring abortion access back to Columbia. Since 2012, St. Louis has been the only place in Missouri that offered abortions.

McQuade said the Columbia clinic will begin providing medication abortions once a week. The first pill will be administered by a licensed physician, and the patient will take the second pill on her own.

McQuade said the clinic will follow all regulations according to state law, including the 72 hour waiting period between abortion counselling and the procedure. She said having more access to abortion procedures in mid-Missouri should help make it easier for women so they don't have to travel across the state between visits.

McQuade said PPKM needed to comply with all state regulations before receiving its licensing from the state. She said the clinic officially became licensed to offer abortions again Wednesday night.

Columbia 40 Days for Life Prayer Vigil Co-Director Kathy Forck said she's surprised by this announcement, though.

"I'm totally surprised because I know they don't have a license at this point. I know there are major renovations that need to be done per the agreement between Planned Parenthood and state of Missouri back in 2010," Forck said.

The most recent list of abortion providers and ambulatory surgery clinics on the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Service's website hasn't been updated since June 2, 2015.

40 Days for Life is a pro-life group that prays for the end of abortion. Forck said the group sets up peaceful prayer vigils in front of abortion clinics. She said the group's main concerns are women's health and the end of abortion.

The Department of Health and Senior Services was closed and could not be reached for comment regarding Forck's statements. PPKM said it did not "have the ability to provide a copy of our licensing agreement at this time".