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Anti-abortion group says Mo. Planned Parenthood violated patient safety

The national abortion debate is raging with renewed fervor, as a series of states pass restrictive laws banning almost all instances of the procedure. Among those states is Missouri, where officials are also trying to shutter its only remaining abortion provider, a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis. William Brangham talks to Mallory Quigley of the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List.

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  • William Brangham:

    And now for the other side.

    I'm joined now by Mallory Quigley. She's vice president for communications for the Susan B. Anthony List, a national anti-abortion organization.

    Welcome to the "NewsHour."

  • Mallory Quigley:

    Thank you so much for having me.

  • William Brangham:

    So the state of Missouri is saying it's got to close the Planned Parenthood because that clinic, they say, is violating health standards.

  • Mallory Quigley:

    Mm-hmm.

  • William Brangham:

    And you heard Dr. Leana Wen of Planned Parenthood.

    They say the state just keeps trying to move the goalposts, that their real aim is just to close the clinic and stop abortions in Missouri totally. What is your take on that?

  • Mallory Quigley:

    I think we just have to look at the facts.

    It was a patient complaint that actually prompted the investigation into the clinic, and they found multiple violations. A woman who went in for an abortion actually remained pregnant. There's talk of botched abortions, failure to do proper informed consent.

    Actually, an ambulance has been called to this particular facility in Saint Louis more than 70 times since 2009. That — she mentioned a public health crisis. That sounds like a public health crisis to me. We know what happens when public health officials don't inspect abortion facilities. It happened in Pennsylvania for 17 years. They didn't inspect clinics.

    Kermit Gosnell was convicted eventually of killing unborn children that had — children that had been born alive and the death of one patient. In fact, EMS could not get her out because the hallways were not wide enough, and there was debris everywhere.

    So these regulations aren't arbitrary. They're about the health and safety of women.

  • William Brangham:

    I should state for the record the case that you're citing is not a Planned Parenthood clinic. But it was, yes, an unregulated…

  • Mallory Quigley:

    That — right. True. True.

    I just am speaking to the — the Missouri Department of Health is tasked with protecting the health and safety of women. That's what they're trying to do here.

  • William Brangham:

    But let's just say that that Planned Parenthood clinic, the only abortion-providing clinic in Missouri, were to not be able to do that.

    Don't you worry that women who still would like to have an abortion will proceed to find that procedure in much more dangerous, much more unregulated ways, and that that, in the end, could be much more harmful to women in Missouri?

  • Mallory Quigley:

    Well, I think that just because it's the last abortion facility doesn't mean that there shouldn't — it shouldn't be held to any standard.

    Planned Parenthood shouldn't get special treatment because they want to stay open. There is actually a Planned Parenthood clinic doing abortions just across the river, so it is quite nearby to Saint Louis.

    But I think that we're really speaking about the issue of abortion and less access. We need to provide better answers for women who are facing unexpected pregnancies. Abortion isn't the best solution.

  • William Brangham:

    Right, but should women — it's still a legal procedure under Roe v. Wade that women across the country — and they all — the majority of women polled in almost every state in the country argue, I understand the position of the anti-abortion movement, but this is still a legal procedure, it is my body, and I would like to have the right, with consultation with my doctor and partner perhaps, to make this choice for myself.

  • Mallory Quigley:

    Well, in Missouri, the people — the duly elected representatives of the people, they sent them to Jefferson City with a mandate to protect life.

    And I would argue that this is the problem with Roe vs. Wade, is that it was profoundly undemocratic, prevented the states from reaching consensus. And now what we're having is a breakthrough moment, where state legislators want to go ahead and have these debates.

    And Missouri has passed sweeping pro-life protections by the way that it was meant to be done, through the legislature, not through the courts.

  • William Brangham:

    Missouri, as you mentioned, is one of many states that is going through this process of enacting restrictions on abortion. And many advocates say, we are trying to trigger a Supreme Court challenge, we would love the Supreme Court to take this up.

    Do you think that that review would go in your favor?

  • Mallory Quigley:

    Well, I don't have a crystal ball. I don't know which bill that they will choose to take up.

    Missouri, for example, the legislators really threw in the kitchen sink. It limits abortion at eight weeks. It also limits abortion at five months, which is when science tell us that the unborn child can feel pain, and there's a slew of other regulations.

    So I do think that a time is coming. The court is probably looking at what's happening across country, not just states in Missouri and Louisiana and in the Deep South. We have, you know, probably protections passing elsewhere across the country.

    There's really a lot of momentum. And this tells us that Roe v. Wade isn't settled in the hearts and minds of the American people. And so I do believe that the court is going to have to eventually take up one of these cases.

    The pro-life movement is doing its part to give the court a wide range of options.

  • William Brangham:

    All right, Mallory Quigley of the Susan B. Anthony List, thank you very much.

  • Mallory Quigley:

    Thanks for having me.

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