Missouri health system resumes providing emergency contraception amid fears patients and staff could be prosecuted under the state's strict abortion ban

Missouri health system resumes providing emergency contraception amid fears patients and staff could be prosecuted under the state's strict abortion ban
State laws banning abortion "from the moment of fertilization" could interfere with access to emergency contraception.Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
  • A top Missouri health system will continue to provide emergency contraception following a brief halt.
  • It initially paused due to fears patients and staff may be prosecuted under a new law, the Kansas City Star reported.

A Missouri health system will resume providing emergency contraception to patients a day after announcing it would come to an end.

The initial move was due to fears that patients and staff could be prosecuted under the state's strict new abortion ban. However, a spokesperson for the Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt confirmed to local outlet KMBC that "Missouri law does not prohibit the use or provision of Plan B or contraception."

Saint Luke's Health System — which maintains over a dozen medical campuses across the Kansas City region and is a faith-based organization — announced the decision on Tuesday, according to local reports.

Laurel Gifford, a Saint Luke's spokesperson, previously told the Kansas City Star: "To ensure we adhere to all state and federal laws — and until the law in this area becomes better defined — Saint Luke's will not provide emergency contraception at our Missouri-based locations."

On Wednesday, however, Saint Luke's reversed course. A spokesperson for the health system told Insider that Saint Luke's "is aware of and continues to closely monitor legal developments regarding Missouri's abortion trigger law, including recent comments from the Missouri Attorney General's Office and the Governor of Missouri regarding the use of emergency contraceptives."


The statement adds that while it has resumed providing emergency contraception as of Wednesday, "the ambiguity of the law, and the uncertainty even among state officials about what this law prohibits, continues to cause grave concern and will require careful monitoring."

"Saint Luke's stands firmly with the Episcopal Church in supporting the rights of all patients to make medical decisions in consultation with their health care providers. We believe this is when health care is at its best," the statement concludes.

Missouri was the first state to make abortion illegal after the US Supreme Court on Friday overturned the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, which had legalized abortion nationwide.

"In response to today's SCOTUS ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, I have signed a proclamation activating the 'Right to Life of the Unborn Child Act,' ending elective abortions in the State," Gov. Mike Parson wrote on Twitter last week.

Missouri was one of the 13 states that had so-called "trigger laws" in place to immediately ban abortions once Roe was overturned.


"First, the Missouri law is ambiguous but may be interpreted as criminalizing emergency contraception," Gifford told the Kansas City Star. "As a System that deeply cares about its team, we simply cannot put our clinicians in a position that might result in criminal prosecution."

In a statement to local station KSHB, a Saint Luke's spokesperson previously said that because the health system operates in Kansas, too, emergency contraception can be provided at those facilities "safely, legally, and without putting our clinicians at legal risk."

The statement continued: "It may not always be the most convenient option for our patients, but for now, it is the best solution available."

Voters in Kansas will decide in an August referendum whether abortions should be protected by the state's constitution, local station KWCH reported.

Experts previously told Insider reporter Andrea Michelson that access to contraception — which is already restricted in some states — was under threat before last week's Supreme Court ruling. And some lawmakers are signaling that contraception may be the next focal point in a new healthcare battleground.


The Missouri Attorney General's Office did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.