November 25, 2015 — A Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia, Mo., on Monday stopped providing abortion care because the clinic's physician is scheduled to lose certain hospital privileges on Dec. 1, AP/Yahoo! News reports (AP/Yahoo! News, 11/24).
Under state law, abortion clinics are required to meet ambulatory surgical center requirements. To meet those requirements, physicians who provide surgical abortions must have admitting privileges with a nearby hospital.
In 2014, University of Missouri Health Care granted "refer and follow" privileges to Colleen McNicholas, a physician who began providing medication abortions at the Columbia Planned Parenthood clinic on Aug. 3.
In August, conservative state senators and the health department director in Missouri debated at a hearing whether the Columbia clinic met state licensing requirements when it received its license in July. During the hearing, state Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R) -- chair of the Missouri Senate Appropriations Committee, as well as an interim committee investigating Planned Parenthood -- said the clinic failed to meet the ambulatory surgical center standards because the clinic's abortion provider does not have admitting privileges. However, Gail Vasterling, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said the standard does not apply because the clinic only provides medication abortions, not surgical abortions. Physicians at the clinic or the clinic itself would need to obtain admitting privilege requirements only if the clinic started to offer surgical abortion.
Following a unanimous vote by a committee of executive staff, MU Health Care announced that it will cease refer and follow privileges, which permit physicians to provide medication abortions, beginning Dec. 1. Planned Parenthood in September said it would take legal action against MU for its decision to discontinue the privileges (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/29).
According to AP/Yahoo! News, the sole abortion clinic in the state now is a clinic located in St. Louis, Mo. Women in the western part of the state also could seek abortion care at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Overland Park, Kan.
Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said advocates for Planned Parenthood on Nov. 30 intend to hold a vigil before marching to the administration offices on MU's campus. The demonstration aims to make MU interim Chancellor Hank Foley rescind or postpone the decision to revoke the refer and follow privileges. According to McQuade, delaying the end of the refer and follow privileges through February would give the clinic enough time to file for admitting privileges or hire a doctor who has admitting privileges.
Noting the Supreme Court's decision to review parts of a Texas law (HB 2) that also imposes admitting privileges requirements, McQuade said, "If [the requirements] are declared unconstitutional in Texas, depending on how the court rules, there may be implications here" (AP/Yahoo! News, 11/24).