A Columbia state senator says the University of Missouri is violating a state law that prevents the use of public dollars to performing or assisting an abortion.
The Interim Committee on the Sanctity of Life obtained a series of e-mails in which University staff communicated with Planned Parenthood staff about the legal requirements to be met for the Columbia Planned Parenthood facility to resume performing abortions. Specifically, they discuss the privileges the University hospital in Columbia extended the to doctor that is performing those abortions, Dr. Colleen P. McNicholas.
“A lot of state funds have already been used to give her those privileges in order to enable the license. That’s not even open for debate,” Senator Kurt Schaefer told Chancellor Bowen Loftin, who was called to testify to the committee. “When you look at all the time that was spent by University staff on the clock on a University computer system, and recruiting her, shepherding it through, and then making sure she got the privileges so the license could be added.”
Loftin said he would investigate one University Hospital staffer who is both an assistant teaching professor for the University and a lead nurse practitioner for Planned Parenthood, for using both titles in the signatures of her University e-mail account, which he said violates University rules.
Loftin challenged the assertion that University staff sought to aid the license process.
“I don’t believe that the group of physicians and committee members who actually approve these privileges basically felt they were enabling abortions to be provided in the local region they were in,” said Loftin. “I think they were simply following a couple of things. They were following a request from a physician for this kind of privilege, referring and following … and they were also following the federal statutes which say we can’t discriminate against a physician based on whether or not they provide abortions, for example, when granting privileges of any nature.”
Loftin said denying privileges to a doctor that meets professional qualifications and medical staff standards on the basis that he or she performs abortions could cause the University Hospital to forfeit $150-million or more annually in federal funding.
Senator Bob Onder (R-Lake Saint Louis) said there was good reason not to grant McNicholas privileges if she was going to put the hospital in a position of taking on potential liability without offering any economic benefit to the hospital.
“Referring and following” are the privileges McNicholas has at the University. Republicans on the committee contend that is not sufficient for the Columbia Planned Parenthood facility to be licensed to offer abortions, under a state law requiring a physician in such a case to have admitting privileges.
“The women of this state that are getting medically induced abortions should know that if something goes wrong the physician that is on this license with Planned Parenthood can actually get them into a hospital to save their lives,” said Senator Eric Schmitt (R-Glendale).
The Director of the Department of Health and Human Services, Gail Vasterling, said the Columbia facility doesn’t need admitting privileges because it is only providing abortions that are chemically induced and not surgical.
Republican committee members said the Department can’t make that distinction under the law or its own regulations, but Vasterling maintained, “I believe that this facility was properly licensed, and I believe that in an emergency any women would be seen by any hospital.”
The committee also learned the identity of a third-party vendor that handles fetal tissues after an abortion, and reasserted in testimony Tuesday that the Department does not monitor what happens with that tissue once it is in that vendor’s control. Schaefer says the committee will call representatives of that vendor, Pathology Services, Inc, to testify at its next hearing.
“This committee was put together to determine whether or not what was admitted in those videos is occurring in the State of Missouri and we’re going to find that out,” said Schaefer, referring to a series of undercover videos that allege Planned Parenthood has illegally profited from the sale of fetal tissue. “It is relevant to every aspect of what this committee is looking at who that pathologist is and where that material is going.”
Schaefer said the committee’s next meeting might not come until after the legislature’s veto session September 16.