ST. LOUIS, Missouri – Dr. David Eisenberg has appointments on Thursday with about 50 patients who want to interrupt their pregnancies in St. Louis. But, for the first time since the United States legalized abortion in 1973, he will not be able to guarantee that his patients can have legal and safe abortions in Missouri.
Eisenberg heads the only clinic still giving abortions in Missouri, a white brick bunker with bricked-up windows and a metal detector at the entrance where each month dozens of women come to interrupt their pregnancies.
If a judicial order does not prevent it, Missouri on the weekend will become the first US state to ban legal abortions, given that the authorities have refused to renew a license that expires this Friday.
“I need to explain to (the patients) that I don’t know whether we’re going to be able to complete that abortion here in Missouri next week because of this legislative interference, health department interference in the safe practice that we already provide,” said Eisenberg in an interview with EFE at the Planned Parenthood reproductive health services clinic.
Eisenberg calls abortions a “basic health service,” quite an incendiary comment in a state that for years has been eroding access to the procedure and whose governor, Republican Mike Parson, just signed a law to prohibit abortions in almost all cases, including cases of rape and incest.
“The state of Missouri is, in many ways, leading the charge to no longer let women be equal members of society and to control their bodies and ... their reproduction,” the doctor said.
Getting an abortion in Missouri is an odyssey sprinkled with strict legal requirements both for patients and for the clinics that provide them, which have been closing their doors over the past two decades, faced with the impossibility of proving – for example – that their doctors have links with local hospitals, which are non-existent in rural areas.
Now, the state is investigating alleged “inadequate practices” at the clinic that since 2015 has been the last bastion for abortions statewide, and authorities are refusing to renew the clinic’s license as long as they cannot interview all the medical personnel there, something that some of them refuse to allow because it could expose them to criminal charges.
“The bill that was signed last week by the governor makes it clear that the state is not interested in the safety and healthcare that we provide. It makes it clear that they’re interested in regulating women’s bodies,” Eisenberg emphasized.
At the entrance to the clinic, a young woman wearing an orange jacket approaches every automobile that arrives in the parking lot to stop them and, if they allow her to do so, try to convince the occupants not to end their pregnancies.
Gudiswitz told EFE that many people, when they arrive at the clinic, think that the anti-abortion volunteer activists who station themselves outside “work for Planned Parenthood, but they don’t have anything to do with that organization and they intimidate them.”
At 79, Gudiswitz each Wednesday stands at the clinic entrance and waves to the women who come to get abortions, signaling that it is he – not the anti-abortion activists who are accosting them – who will help them get inside.
Nobody should shout at or judge the women for requesting basic health services, said Eisenberg about the anti-abortion activists and demonstrators.