Missouri woman files federal complaint against hospitals she says denied emergency abortion


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 care last year after her water broke at 18 weeks of pregnancy.

The complaint, filed with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights on behalf of Joplin resident Mylissa Farmer, alleges that the hospitals discriminated against her based on her sex, according to a news release.

The release did not say which hospitals the organization filed the complaint against. But Farmer has publicly talked about how she was denied an emergency abortion at Joplin’s Freeman Health System in August of last year. Farmer said last year that her water broke early during her pregnancy, putting her health at risk.

A representative from HHS did not respond to a request for comment.

“Abortion is time sensitive and sometimes life-saving health care,” Michelle Barker, Farmer’s attorney and the director of reproductive rights and health litigation at NWLC, said in a statement. “When a hospital offers emergency care to everyone but refuses to provide emergency care that only pregnant people need, that is sex discrimination, pure and simple.”

Farmer’s situation gained a close focus in last year’s race for U.S. Senate in Missouri, where she was featured in TV ads criticizing then-Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt for his role in triggering the state’s near-total ban on abortion. Missouri voters elected Schmitt to the U.S. Senate in November.

Farmer, in a previous interview with the Springfield News-Leader, said she was denied a life-saving abortion procedure at the 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 wouldn’t be able to perform the procedure.

A representative from Freeman Health System did not immediately return a call 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 Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act investigation into Freeman Health 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.

The Star’s Daniel Desrochers contributed to this report.