- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 25, 2015

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Republican senators and the Missouri health department director debated Tuesday whether a Columbia Planned Parenthood met state requirements needed to perform abortions, an issue that has led to questions about whether the agency properly granted the clinic a license in July.

Sen. Kurt Schaefer, a Columbia Republican running for attorney general who is chairman of a committee investigating abortion practices in the state, says the clinic failed to meet requirements. Citing the same state laws, Department of Health and Senior Services Director Gail Vasterling argued the opposite.

The dispute is over a Missouri law that requires physicians performing surgeries to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, or the facility itself to have a similar agreement, in order for a clinic to be licensed as what’s called an “ambulatory surgical center.” Clinics offering abortions need such a license.

The doctor providing abortions at the Planned Parenthood does not have such admitting privileges, although the physician was granted “refer and follow” privileges at University Hospital in Columbia. But the clinic, Vasterling said, doesn’t provide surgical abortions. She said that means admitting privileges were not needed and the health department could grant a license allowing the clinic to perform medical abortions.

“They comply,” with state law, Vasterling told the Senate committee, “because they don’t perform surgeries.”

Republicans on the Senate committee argued state law mandates abortion clinics to have surgical admitting privileges, even if only medical abortions are performed.

“They clearly don’t” have the needed privileges, Schaefer said. Republican Sen. Bob Onder, of Lake St. Louis, told Vasterling that she’s “playing games with this statute.”

How the dispute will be settled is unclear. Schaefer said it’s the Legislature’s responsibility to ensure state agencies and other entities funded with taxpayer money are complying with Missouri law.

Schaefer also is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and has influence over the health department’s funding.


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