COLUMBIA (AP) - The Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia has begun offering abortion services after staffing shortages forced a three-month hiatus.
Peter Brownlie, executive director of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, told The Columbia Daily-Tribune that abortions were stopped at the clinic this fall because no physician was available. The halt was the second this year.
"We rely on physicians who have the time and availability to work with us. We're not in a position - and there isn't money in our budget - to have a full-time person on staff," Brownlie said.
The clinic did continue to offer women contraceptive services, annual wellness exams and other services.
Planned Parenthood also has been dealing with new restrictions passed by the Missouri General Assembly that went into effect in August. The restrictions include expanded "informed-consent" proceedings that oblige women to come in 24 hours before an abortion and have a consultation with a "qualified professional."
The professional - a nurse or licensed professional counselor - is required to give the woman information, including a statement outlining state-funded assistance if she carries the pregnancy to term and information about the father's liability for child support.
Women seeking abortions must also receive literature detailing the risks of an abortion and the physiological characteristics of the fetus at the current gestational age. Women are given the chance to see an ultrasound and hear the heartbeat of the fetus.
Brownlie said the new restrictions have placed an added travel burden on women from outlying areas of Missouri who must make two trips instead of one.
Kathy Forck, co-director of 40 Days for Life of Columbia, said she is optimistic that the new "informed consent" restrictions will decrease the number of abortions in the state.
"When they're shown an ultrasound and can hear the baby's heartbeat and see that it's a unique, separate human being, that's got to weight pretty heavily on your mind," Forck said.