A U.S. District Court judge Nanette Laughrey has issued an injunction, which Planned Parenthood says protects its license to provide abortions at its Columbia facility. Planned Parenthood says the ruling shows that Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) treated Planned Parenthood unfairly and that DHSS, Planned Parenthood and its patients were bullied by Senator Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia). The court states:
“In mid-July 2015, the Missouri Senate convened the Senate Interim Committee on Sanctity of Life, chaired by Schaefer, to investigate Planned Parenthood’s presence in Missouri based on the disparate treatment of Planned Parenthood by DHSS and the political intimidation directed at the University of Missouri Health System and DHSS, the Court does not find credible the suggestion that Planned Parenthood will have its license reinstated without incurring substantial costs and delay.”
Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid- Missouri President and CEO Laura McQuade says the court decision confirms that the state unfairly targeted the organization.
“Senator Schaefer abused his power to further his extreme ideology against Planned Parenthood and its patients,” Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri President and CEO, Laura McQuade said. “Let this win show, Planned Parenthood will answer every ideological attack with fervent conviction that access to safe, legal abortion is a right for which we will always fight. It’s time politicians vacate the doctor’s office and go back to work for their constituents.”
Missouri Senate Majority Caucus leaders are urging Attorney General Chris Koster to appeal the ruling. Senate Leader Ron Richard, (R-Joplin) expressed skepticism that Judge Laughery’s ruling would survive an appeal.
“This decision, while in my view incorrect, was sadly predictable,” said Richard. “This judge has a track record of left-leaning rulings, and I am confident, that if appealed, the higher court will promptly overturn this poorly reasoned opinion.”
Richard says Republican Senators raised concerns that Koster failed to zealously argue the Legislature’s position in court.
“Going back to December, I voiced my concerns to the attorney general that he was failing to adequately represent the Missouri Senate in this matter and asked that he appoint outside counsel to do the job for him,” said Richard. “He declined my request and offered up a weak, timid defense of the Senate’s position – virtually ensuring that the court’s opinion would be unfavorable. Going forward, I strongly encourage Attorney General Koster to appeal the lower court’s decision as soon as possible.”
Assistant Majority Floor Leader Bob Onder says Judge Laughery took the unusual step of lecturing members of the Missouri Senate for exercising their constitutional authority to investigate concerns that taxpayer funds were being used to subsidize abortions.
“It appears that the court in this instance failed to appreciate the fundamental constitutional authority of the Legislature to speak for the citizens of Missouri and to determine how their tax dollars will be spent,” said Onder. “There is no question that our constituents do not want their tax dollars being used to subsidize abortions, and we have a duty to make sure that the law as written is being followed.”
As part of its investigation last year, the Senate Committee on the Sanctity of Life investigated concerns that Planned Parenthood was selling fetal tissue in violation of state law. It also examined whether the University of Missouri had improperly granted special privileges in violation of state law to Dr. Colleen McNicholas, who provided abortions for Planned Parenthood patients.
In September, the University of Missouri ended McNicholas’ privileges that she says allowed her to perform abortions. She is trying to get those privileges reinstated.