State health director kept spreadsheet of women’s menstrual cycles to find abortion patients

Missouri's top health official has admitted to tracking women's periods in a spreadsheet — an action he said was used to identify Planned Parenthood patients who had undergone abortions. 

Dr. Randall Williams, the state's health director, made the admission while testifying during a state hearing on Tuesday, the Kansas City Star reported

The spreadsheet, which included identification numbers and the date of each women's last menstrual period, was used to track patients who had received unsuccessful abortions at Planned Parenthood. Williams said it was part of a wider investigation used to determine if women had been forced to return to the clinic in order to have a second, successful procedure. 

"Missouri politicians have gone too far. This is government overreach at its worst," Yamelsie Rodriguez, president of Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, said in a statement Tuesday.

Williams's comments came amid a wider government debate, as officials in Missouri are currently arguing whether or not Planned Parenthood's St. Louis clinic will be able to continue its operations. The St. Louis location, which is the only abortion clinic in the entire state, was denied a renewal on its abortion license after the health department said it found "deficiencies" in its operations.

The spreadsheet seemed to be part of a system for tracking those "deficiencies." Williams said the department's investigation found four cases of women who had to return to the St. Louis clinic after a failed abortion, a revelation that they said raised "grave concerns."

But some Missouri politicians are questioning the department's methods. Rep. Crystal Quade, the state's House minority leader, called on Gov. Mike Parson to investigate whether "patient privacy was compromised or laws [were] broken," as well as if Williams was "a person who Missourians can be comfortable having in a position of public trust."

Williams testified this week that he is "pro-life" and has never performed an abortion. He did, however, say that he believes the issues found at the St. Louis clinic can be easily fixed, which would allow it to stay open.

The state's hearing is expected to last five days, but a ruling is not expected until February, NBC News reported.

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