- Associated Press - Friday, September 25, 2015

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia is set to lose its ability to offer medication-induced abortions because of a recent University of Missouri medical committee’s decision that put the center’s license in jeopardy.

Missouri’s health department in a Friday letter said the clinic is at risk of losing its license to provide such procedures after an executive committee of University of Missouri Health Care staff voted unanimously the day before to stop offering “refer and follow” privileges, effective Dec. 1.

The committee’s decision is significant because a Planned Parenthood doctor had been granted those privileges, which the center used to obtain a license to begin offering medication-induced abortions at the Columbia clinic last month. State law requires physicians or centers providing abortions to have certain agreements with local hospitals for patient care, although lawmakers and health department officials are at odds over what specific privileges meet that requirement.

“Unless the facility satisfies the hospital privileges requirement,” the health department letter says, “the license of the Columbia facility will be revoked.”

Refer and follow privileges allow a physician to refer patients to a hospital if necessary and then access their medical records.

Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri President and CEO Laura McQuade said the center plans to ask University of Missouri Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin to reconsider the decision to end those privileges. McQuade said Planned Parenthood also will try to get needed privileges from Boone Hospital Center - the only other nearby hospital - or other privileges from the university.

McQuade said if that doesn’t work, the facility might take legal action or file a challenge with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She said that the new university policy violates a federal law prohibiting discrimination in granting staff or hospital privileges because a doctor provides abortions.

MU Health Care Chief Medical Officer Steve Whitt said in a statement that the soon-to-be-discontinued privileges were “outdated and unnecessary” because physicians already can access their patients’ information. Only two physicians have such privileges, Whitt said, including the Planned Parenthood physician.

The change in policy follows pressure from Republican lawmakers for the university to sever ties with Planned Parenthood as House and Senate committees investigate abortion practices in the state.

“From day one when we learned of this scandal, I vowed that we would ‘get MU out of the abortion business,’” said Republican Sen. Kurt Schaefer of Columbia, who chairs the Senate committee and is running for attorney general in 2016, in a statement from his campaign after the university decision. “Thanks to the persistence of our investigation and the public pressure applied by many defenders of life, we achieved that outcome and many unborn lives will hopefully be saved as a result.”

Planned Parenthood has said the legislative investigations are politically motivated and without merit. McQuade on Friday also slammed the university, which she said “caved to the political pressure” from Schaefer’s committee in a decision that “puts politics above patients.”

“This is a continuation of the orchestrated attempt to restrict access to safe, legal abortion in Missouri and to the critical services Planned Parenthood has provided for nearly 100 years,” McQuade said in a statement.

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