Missouri abortion provider Dr. Colleen McNicholas joined Rachel Maddow on her May 28 show to discuss the negative impact on patients if the state loses abortion access at the end of the week.
As first reported by CBS News, Missouri’s only remaining abortion clinic could lose the ability to provide abortion care this week -- pending a legal challenge on Wednesday. Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services is refusing to renew Planned Parenthood’s license to perform abortions, meaning that although the clinic would not close, it would be unable to provide abortions -- making Missouri the first state since Roe v. Wade was decided to have no access to legal abortion care. Missouri has also been pushing anti-abortion restrictions for years, including an eight-week ban on abortion signed by the governor last week.
Here are three important things Maddow did when discussing abortion access in Missouri:
1. Hosted an abortion provider
Unlike in much of cable news' discussions of abortion, Maddow actually talked to an abortion provider, McNicholas, who was able to speak to what’s happening on the ground in Missouri, including the intricacies of the licensing fight and the negative impact losing legal abortion care would have on patients. McNicholas told Maddow, “Missouri is certainly poised within the next 72 hours to be the only state in our nation to not have access to abortion.”
2. Provided context to explain that revoking the Missouri licenses is part of a larger conservative strategy
McNicholas put Missouri’s situation in context and explained that the license fight is part of an ongoing strategy by anti-choice lawmakers to eliminate abortion access in Missouri and across the country. McNicholas said:
We have been subject to inspections every year for as long as I can remember, and each year, the sort of stakes get higher and higher and the tactics get more aggressive. We certainly have found this year that we are competing with what seems to be a never-ending, changing interpretation of their own regulations, which really just make it impossible for us to even be able to comply.
When Maddow asked about the potential that other states will face a similar situation, McNicholas underscored the scope of the threat, saying, “We are not the only state who has been subject to sort of state-sanctioned weaponization of the oversight and licensing process. The Department of Health is generally staffed by politically appointed individuals, not elected officials. And so, this has long been a weapon of the anti-choice movement, to try and shut down clinics.”
3. Highlighted the impacts on marginalized communities in the state
Maddow and McNicholas debunked the inaccurate talking point that people seeking abortions in Missouri (or any state without care) could travel to another state to access abortion care. In particular, McNicholas noted that marginalized communities would further struggle to access abortion services if the state loses legal abortion care. McNicholas rightly noted that traveling to access care is an option of “the privileged” and explained:
We have seen across the states that have these most restrictive laws that people who are most disadvantaged, people of color, people who live in rural areas, people who struggle to make ends meet, already have limited or no access to abortion. Eliminating that care in states like Missouri means that those women, those people, are not going to be able to access abortion at all. It's never been a problem for people of means to be able to access abortion. But it is the most disadvantaged people that are going to have the most trouble.