August 27, 2015 — On Tuesday, conservative state senators and the health department director in Missouri debated at a hearing whether Columbia Planned Parenthood met state licensing requirements when it received its license in July, AP/Sacramento Bee reports.
Under state law, abortion clinics are required to meet ambulatory surgical center requirements. According to the AP/Bee, to meet those requirements, physicians who provide surgical abortions, or the clinic where they perform such procedures, must have admitting privileges with a nearby hospital (Ballentine, AP/Sacramento Bee, 8/25).
Columbia Planned Parenthood had to suspend abortion care several years ago, after the physician who provided the procedure resigned. The clinic offered abortion referrals from that time until earlier this month, when it resumed providing abortion care (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/20). According to Gail Vasterling, director of Missouri's Department of Health and Senior Services, the Columbia Planned Parenthood only provides medication abortions.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, an interim committee in the state Senate was convened to investigate Planned Parenthood following the release of misleading videos targeting the organization (Stuckey, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8/25).
During the hearing, state Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R) -- chair of the Missouri Senate Appropriations Committee and the investigative committee -- said the clinic failed to meet the ambulatory surgical center standards because the physician providing abortion care at the Columbia clinic does not have admitting privileges.
Meanwhile, Vasterling said the standard does not apply because the clinic only provides medication abortions, not surgical abortions. "They comply ... because they don't perform surgeries," Vasterling said (AP/Sacramento Bee, 8/25).
R. Bowen Loftin, University of Missouri's chancellor, explained that the clinic's physician was granted "refer and follow" privileges at University of Missouri Health Care, which allows the physician to refer patients to the hospital and access their medical records after they have been admitted.
According to the Post-Dispatch, physicians at the clinic or the clinic itself would need to obtain admitting privilege requirements only if the clinic starts to offer surgical abortion. Vasterling said Planned Parenthood intends to meet again with UM officials to obtain admitting privileges before offering surgical abortions, which it plans to provide beginning in early 2016 (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8/25).
Schaefer also claimed that UM officials broke state law by advising the physician at Columbia Planned Parenthood by email on how to keep privileges at UM Health Care. However, Loftin said federal law prohibits the university from denying the privileges to physicians because they provide legal abortion services. Further, Loftin explained that UM officials consulting with the clinic physician primarily provided paperwork, while other UM officials were tasked with the final decision on approving the privileges (AP/Sacramento Bee, 8/25).