University of Missouri Under Fire for Enabling New Planned Parenthood Abortion Clinic

State   |   Joe Ortworth   |   Sep 4, 2015   |   10:16AM   |   Columbia, MO

The Chancellor of the University of Missouri is under fire for providing conflicting testimony regarding the University’s relationship with the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Columbia.  State legislative committees are examining the manner in which state  health officials issued a license to allow Planned Parenthood to resume their abortion business at the Columbia clinic.

In an appearance before the Senate Sanctity of Human Life Committee last week, Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin denied that the Missouri University Health Care System had granted staff privileges to the doctor performing chemical abortions at the Columbia clinic.  The focus of the controversy is on the hospital affiliation of Dr. Colleen McNicholas, who is also a leading abortionist at the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in St. Louis.

In testimony before the Senate committee, Chancellor Loftin insisted that Dr. McNicholas had only been granted “refer and follow privileges” at University Hospital.  Lofton insists that these privileges do not allow McNicholas to admit patients, write orders, prescribe treatment, or perform procedures.  “She  cannot do anything in the hospital but come in the door,” Loftin told the committee.

Yet a document obtained by Senator Kurt Schaefer, Chairman of the Senate committee, contradicts Loftin’s statements.  In a letter dated December 16th, 2014, University Hospital Chief of Staff Dr. Bert Bachrach informs Dr. McNicholas that her request for “clinical privileges” has been approved, and congratulates her on her appointment to the hospital’s “organized medical staff.”

The letter provided McNicholas with a copy of medical staff bylaws, hospital manuals and policies, and access to the hospital’s electronic medical records system.  Dr. McNicholas was provided with an official University  Hospital ID badge, guaranteeing her access to restricted areas.  In separate correspondence, Dr. McNicholas was advised that her medical privileges at the hospital were unrestricted in emergency situations.

All of this is a far cry from “she cannot do anything in the hospital but come in the door.”  And it is a shoddy medical arrangement for a drive-by abortionist who has no active physician practice in the community.  Dr. McNicholas is a Washington University Medical Center physician who is on the staff of Barnes Hospital and Missouri Baptist Hospital in St. Louis more than 100 miles away.

Chancellor Loftin attempted to further mislead the Senate committee by claiming that the University of Missouri was an unfortunate victim of circumstances.  He argued that University Hospital had no choice but to grant some form of privileges to Dr. McNicholas under federal law or face the loss of federal funding.  He cited a federal statute prohibiting discrimination against physicians due to their participation in abortions.

Yet additional documents obtained by Senator Schaefer reveal that Missouri University staff played an active role in recruiting Dr. McNicholas to perform abortions at the Columbia clinic through affiliation with University Hospital.  The e-mail correspondence obtained by Senator Schaefer involves the conversations of Kristin Metcalf-Wilson, who is an assistant teaching professor in the University’s School of Nursing.

The string of e-mails detail discussions between Metcalf-Wilson and Dr. McNicholas.   The exchange makes it clear that Metcalf-Wilson is coaching McNicholas to obtain clinical privileges at University Hospital.  It just so happens that Metcalf-Wilson is the lead nurse-practitioner for Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, which operates the Columbia Planned Parenthood clinic.

The issue of “clinical privileges” is a crucial one.  Missouri law prohibits a physician from performing or inducing abortions unless that doctor has “clinical privileges at a hospital which offers obstetrical or  gynecological care located within 30 miles of the location at which the abortion is performed or induced.”  It is clear that the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) issued Planned Parenthood an abortion clinic license in mid-July based on the documents provided by University Hospital to Dr. McNicholas.

As we reported last week, DHSS is also facing withering criticism from Missouri legislators for failure to comply with state law governing the operation of ambulatory surgical centers.   No license can be issued to an ambulatory surgical center (including abortion clinics) unless there is a working agreement with a licensed hospital in the community “guaranteeing the transfer and admittance of patients for emergency treatment.”  Chancellor Loftin has admitted that no such agreement exists between University Hospital and the Planned Parenthood clinic.

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In her latest testimony before the Senate committee, DHSS Director Gail Vasterling once again provided non-stop “I don’t know” answers to incredulous committee members.  Senator Bob Onder of Lake St. Louis was sharply critical of the relationship between the Department and the University.  “I think a lot of games have been played here–for sure by the Department, and I fear maybe by the University of Missouri Health Care System, too…It is clear that some people worked real hard to skirt the clear meaning of the law to get the abortions going and kill babies in Columbia.”

Senator Schaefer believes the University of Missouri is flouting a state law that prohibits the use of public funds or public employees to perform or assist an abortion.  “A lot of state funds have been used to enable the license.  That’s not even open for debate.  When you  look at all the time that was spent by University staff on the clock–recruiting [Dr. McNicholas], shepherding it through, and then making sure she got the privileges so the license could be issued.  It appears to me that the University is in the abortion business.”

Legislative leaders designated committees in the House and Senate to investigate the business practices of Planned Parenthood following the release nationwide of undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood employees engaged in the marketing and trafficking of baby body parts.  The House and Senate committees are expected to resume their hearings after Labor Day. Note:  Joe Ortwerth writes for the Missouri Family Policy Council.