The National Women’s Law Center on Monday filed a federal civil rights complaint against hospitals in Missouri, Kansas and Illinois for allegedly denying a Joplin woman life-saving abortion assistance last year after her her waters broke at 18 weeks pregnant.
The complaint, filed with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights on behalf of Joplin resident Mylissa Farmer, alleges hospitals discriminated against her based on her gender, according to a news release. .
The statement did not specify which hospitals the organization has filed a complaint against. But Farmer has spoken publicly about how she was denied an emergency abortion at the Freeman Health System in Joplin in August of last year. Farmer said last year that her water broke early in her pregnancy, putting her health at risk.
An HHS representative did not respond to a request for comment.
“Abortion is time-sensitive and sometimes life-saving health care,” Michelle Barker, Farmer’s attorney and director of reproductive rights and health care litigation at NWLC, said in a statement. “When a hospital offers emergency care to everyone but refuses to provide emergency care that only pregnant women need, that is sex discrimination, pure and simple.”
Farmer’s plight gained particular attention in last year’s race for US Senate in Missouri, where she appeared in TV commercials criticizing then Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt for his role in triggering the ban almost total abortion by the state. Missouri voters elected Schmitt to the US Senate in November.
Farmer, in an earlier interview with the Springfield News-Leader, said she was denied a life-saving abortion procedure at Joplin hospital in August after her water broke early and put her health at risk. .
The newspaper reported that she also visited the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas, where she was told doctors would not be able to perform the procedure.
A representative from the Freeman Health System did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday. A representative from the University of Kansas Medical Center also did not respond on Monday.
Farmer, according to the Springfield News-Leader, eventually had the abortion procedure performed at the HOPE Clinic in Granite City, Illinois.
Last October, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services launched an investigation into the Emergency Medical Treatment and Employment Act into Freeman’s Healthcare System for denying Farmer the procedure.
The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, a 1986 federal law, prohibits hospitals with emergency departments from refusing to treat people with an emergency medical condition.
Daniel Desrochers of The Star contributed to this report.