By Allen Palmeri
COLUMBIA—The suspension of abortion services at the Planned Parenthood Columbia clinic from Aug. 9 through at least Sept. 20 was viewed positively by pro-life advocates who have been working hard to pass laws that would have the effect in Missouri of creating a predisposition toward life.
“The cultural indicators point to a shift in the culture that has been fostered by Christian involvement in public policy,” said Kerry Messer, founder, Missouri Family Network, and legislative liasion, Christian Life Commission, Missouri Baptist Convention.
The secular press has even begun to refer to this shift as a “tipping point” that is leading more and more citizens to identify themselves as pro-life.
In Columbia, Planned Parenthood blamed “scheduling issues” for the recent temporary suspension of operations that has now gone on for six weeks. Charity Quinn, executive director for the nearby Life Network of Missouri, said the day for doing abortions used to be Thursday, but now it is Monday. Labor Day, Sept. 6, was a non-working day, and Sept. 13 and Sept. 20 were other Mondays that were abortion-free. KOMU-TV 8 in Columbia reported that Planned Parenthood is hopeful that an abortionist will be working at the clinic again by Sept. 30.
With the new state law adding a requirement for another day for consultation, “I have to imagine that has impacted them,” said Quinn, who went on to note that she expects that the abortion clinic will one day reopen.
Kathy Forck, campaign co-director of the “40 Days for Life” prayer chain in Columbia with her husband, Mike, agreed with Quinn’s assessment that the clinic is being impacted, saying “I think (the new state law) is going to help a lot.” The third “40 Days for Life” will happen Sept. 22 to Oct. 31. She said people are primed to work hard for 10 hours a day in front of the Planned Parenthood building on North Providence Road, praying that abortions will stop.
Prayer vigils make up the main strategy, she said, with more than 600 people active on a contact list and agreeing to pray either at home or at the abortion facility itself. Missouri Baptists who wish to inquire about the prayer initiative can contact Kathy Forck by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (573) 491-3522 or (573) 821-5130.
“It’s all God,” Forck said. “That’s what we’ve been praying for for the last 18 months, for the end of abortion. I know that God is going to close the abortion mill in Columbia.”
Only two other abortion clinics exist in Missouri. They are in St. Louis and Bridgeton. A woman who called the Columbia clinic Sept. 7 was told that the office was not doing abortions because “they don’t have an available doctor at this time.”
Despite what appears to be encouraging news, there is not a verifiable link between the Columbia abortion clinic’s struggle to remain open and a new pro-life law in Missouri, Messer said. While the new law went into effect Aug. 28, he cautioned that any attempt to portray it as a threat to the ongoing functionality of the Columbia abortuary would be mere speculation.
The new law requires abortion providers to inform pregnant women of their risks prior to having an abortion. Mothers will be fully informed of their unborn child’s characteristics and have the opportunity, if they want, to hear the heartbeat or see her sonogram image.
Under other provisions of the law a woman has a right to know her medical risks, how to reach the abortion doctor with questions, and the location of a hospital where the doctor has medical privileges. She also has the right to know about her child’s development, including the right to see an ultrasound picture and to hear her baby’s heartbeat.
The law goes on to require that resources be provided for the woman who chooses to give birth. Information should be given on adoption, and for the mother who chooses to keep her baby, extensive resources are to be made available through the Alternatives to Abortion program sponsored by Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services.
Peter Brownlie, president of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said he is unsure when abortion services in Columbia will resume.