Staff Editorial: Why are our periods being tracked?

The tension between the state of Missouri and the state’s sole Planned Parenthood branch that provides abortion services is not a concept that is new to the state and its inhabitants. This past summer, the nation watched with curiosity and disbelief as the ability to have an abortion was being carelessly dangled on a thread, held and maintained by the Missouri government. The state threatened to prohibit the renewal of Planned Parenthood’s abortion license, which, as this is the lone license held in Missouri, would have essentially outlawed abortions in the state. Although the organization was given a temporary allowance to continue performing abortions for patients, it is still unclear as to whether or not Planned Parenthood will be granted a renewed license.

In the meantime, this tension has not ceased. In fact, it has been exacerbated by the actions of Missouri’s government, orchestrated by the state’s Director of the Department of Health and Senior Services, Dr. Randall Williams. In recent weeks, it has been brought to the public’s attention that Williams has been keeping a spreadsheet tracking the menstrual periods of woman who have attended Planned Parenthood for abortion services. It appears that the justification for the spreadsheet is an effort to track the rate of failed abortions performed by Planned Parenthood in the state of Missouri. However, it is unknown to us why this would be necessary. Unrecognized, failed abortions occur at a rate of less than 1%. The more alarming question remains: why is the state using periods as a means to measure failed abortions?

These actions feel invasive and unnecessary, and they have the potential to leave many with feelings of great discomfort as they try to seek out healthcare. The acquisition of this information is a blatant and seemingly absurd overstepping of boundaries between the public and the government, with little insight as to how this could benefit the health of patients.

We as an Editorial Board tried to sift through the existing news in hopes of finding such a justification and researched possible reasons that would warrant the acquisition of this patient information for the purpose of tracking failed abortions. However, the presentation of this information by the state has been so vague and obscure that we are left with more questions than answers, and furthermore, no good reason as to how these data could have been useful to the state.

This lack of transparency about Williams’ intentions for this data is simply unacceptable; the fact that so few people are aware of this occurrence is equally alarming. This is an issue that should be accessible to the citizens of this city and state, and one that should be more closely investigated and shared in local media outlets. We as residents deserve to be given information about issues that directly affect us, those we know and our health.

It is no secret that the state government has sought to deny access to abortions in the past. Thus this tactic of tracking women’s periods appears to us as only an effort by Williams to find any flaw within the Planned Parenthood system, likely as a means to revoke the organization’s right to perform abortions for residents. Earlier this year, Missouri proposed an anti-abortion bill similar to legislation in Georgia and Alabama, which would have outlawed abortions past eight weeks into pregnancy. This tracking of menstural periods feels eerily indicative to the potential continuation of an unfulfilled agenda by the state: to prohibit abortions.

As young people living in Missouri, the decisions created by the government impact us and the community in which we’ve chosen to reside, and we should not be complacent in the face of news such as this. These instances break trust and evoke fear, which only adds bricks to the existing wall standing between people and their access to healthcare. It’s difficult enough accessing healthcare financially for some; the added concern that one’s private information may ultimately be used against them only increases the obstacles to proper care.

The Student Life Editorial Board believes it is imperative to speak up about the issue at hand, as it extends outside of St. Louis and Missouri, into questions the entire nation is wrestling with. When we fail to speak up about the existence of problems, when we fail to make our voices and concerns heard, we indirectly agree to the continuation of harmful decisions such as this. We encourage you all to be voices within the community against these and other injustices.

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening as Washington University returns to campus.