KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Saint Luke’s Health System said Wednesday it would resume providing emergency contraceptives, reversing course less than 24 hours after The Kansas City Star first reported it was no longer providing Plan B.
Saint Luke’s confirmed late Tuesday night that it was no longer providing emergency contraceptives. By the next day, the health system was facing enormous pressure from abortion rights advocates, including Planned Parenthood, not to curtail access.
The move by the Kansas City health system, made in the wake of last week’s Supreme Court ruling, received national attention and criticism from both sides of the abortion debate. The episode also underscored the concerns of those who fear Missouri’s abortion ban could be wielded to reduce access to over-the-counter birth control.
Missouri is one of more than a dozen states with trigger laws that were designed to immediately or quickly ban abortion following the overturning of Roe v. Wade. State legislators approved the ban in 2019, but its instantaneous implementation has led to confusion over what is legal and what isn’t even as Planned Parenthood and other providers of reproductive services have been adamant that the law doesn’t affect contraception.
Ultimately, Saint Luke’s said it was changing course after Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Gov. Mike Parson, both Republicans, gave assurances that the state’s new abortion ban doesn’t affect contraception.
“Following further internal review, Saint Luke’s will now resume providing emergency contraceptives, under new protocols, at all Missouri-based Saint Luke’s hospitals and clinics,” Saint Luke’s spokesperson Laurel Gifford said in a statement.
Gifford didn’t immediately respond to a follow-up question about the new protocols.
But Gifford said the ambiguity of Missouri law and uncertainty among state officials about what is prohibited “continues to cause grave concern and will require careful monitoring.”
“This is especially true because the penalty for violation of the statute includes the criminal prosecution of health care providers whose sole focus is to provide medically necessary care for their patients,” Gifford said.
Violations of Missouri’s abortion ban are a class B felony, punishable by between five and 15 years in prison. Abortion is only allowed for medical emergencies. No exception exists for rape or incest.