COLUMBIA, 6/15/11 (Beat Byte) -- For the second time in less than a year, the Columbia office of Planned Parenthood has stopped then restarted performing abortions, upsetting pro-life groups that regularly picket the organization's headquarters at 711 N. Providence Ave.
In November, Planned Parenthood resumed offering abortions after a three month hiatus, and for the same reason: no physician willing or available to perform the procedure.
"It is with a heavy heart that we inform you that after 16 weeks without abortions, the Planned Parenthood in Columbia, Mo. has found an abortion doctor who will start work there," Missouri Right to Life (MRL) said in a May 26 press release. "The Columbia Planned Parenthood represents one of only two abortion clinics here in Missouri, so the need for prayers and action as they attempt to resume this deadly practice is critical."
In a note to the Heart Beat after this story ran, Mizzou emeritus professor of medicine Robert Blake, M.D. said the "resumption of abortion services at Planned Parenthood is good news for the women of mid-Missouri. Women who face the crisis of an unwanted pregnancy make the decision that they feel is best for themselves and their families. Those who choose to terminate the pregnancy need access to legal, safe abortion service."
Blake also took the pro-life movement and government interference to task. "The choice is the pregnant woman's, not some pro-lifer with a personal agenda, and certainly not the government's," he said. "Having the government force a woman to continue an unwanted pregnancy against her will is tyranny.
A controversial practice MRL members said "had not been committed here since last summer" would also return: "The other bad news is that this new doctor will abort babies up to 13 weeks. This means surgical abortions." Non-surgical methods are also available, including drug-induced contractions that expel the fetus.
MRL and other groups have helped organized a movement called "40 Days for Life of Columbia" that positions protestors outside the Providence Ave. building, even anticipating when and how many women will arrive for the pregnancy-terminating procedure.
"Call your friends, bring your children and come to pray on the sidewalk this Thursday, May 26 anytime after 1:00 pm," members wrote in a call to action. "As many as 15 women are expected to show up for abortions during this time."
Right-to-life advocates watch Columbia closely. The only other abortion centers in the state are located in St. Louis and Bridgeton, a suburb near the St. Louis airport. Physicians willing to perform abortions have become rare practitioners in recent years, subject to harassment, threats, and even murder. George Tiller, MD was shot twice by separate assailants, eventually murdered in May 2009.
"God has been listening to our prayers and we are praying for another miracle," MRL members wrote in the press release about Columbia Planned Parenthood's abortion resumption. "We pray for the conversion of this doctor, who will become an abortionist on May 26."