Missouri Judge: State Can’t Take Planned Parenthood’s License Even Though It Broke the Law

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   May 12, 2016   |   4:43PM   |   Jefferson City, MO

A Missouri judge gave an abortion clinic a pass on Wednesday, allowing it to remain open despite evidence that it was not complying with state laws.

Federal district Judge Nanette Laughrey ruled that the state cannot take away the license of the Planned Parenthood abortion facility in Columbia, and called the state’s attempt to do so politically motivated, according to the Associated Press.

This is the second time Laughrey blocked the state’s actions. The Columbia abortion clinic was set to lose its license to do abortions in December after its abortion doctor, Colleen McNicholas, had her “refer and follow” hospital admitting privileges revoked by the University of Missouri Health Care, LifeNews previously reported. Missouri state law requires that abortion clinics employ doctors with certain hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles of the facility.

In December, Laughrey blocked the state from taking action, allowing the abortion clinic to stay open while it searches for a new abortion doctor who can comply with the law, according to the AP. The state appealed.

In response to the new ruling on Thursday, state lawmakers urged the state attorney general to appeal.

“This decision, while in my view incorrect, was sadly predictable,” state Senate Leader Ron Richard said in a statement. “This judge has a track record of left-leaning rulings, and I am confident that, if appealed, the higher court will promptly overturn this poorly reasoned opinion.”

However, Richard also said he was worried that Attorney General Chris Koster did not adequately represent the state Senate in the matter previously. He called Koster’s defense of the state’s actions “weak” and “timid.”

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Missouri Senate leaders also accused Judge Laughrey of lecturing them for exercising their constitutional authority to investigate concerns that taxpayer funds were being used to subsidize abortions.

Assistant Majority Floor Leader Bob Onder said in a statement, “There is no question that our constituents do not want their tax dollars being used to subsidize abortions, and we have a duty to make sure that the law as written is being followed.”

Laughrey said in her ruling that the state Department of Health and Senior Services treated the abortion clinic “more harshly” than other ambulatory surgical centers, according to the AP.

Here is more from the report:

The agency’s actions “likely were the result of political pressure being exerted by Missouri legislators and the Department’s perception that if it did not act in accordance with the legislature’s desires, its budget would be cut,” Laughrey said in the ruling.

She went on to say that “disparate treatment” of the clinic “cannot be justified by political pressure or public opposition.” She ordered that the license cannot be revoked before its expiration in June.

The clinic had already stopped performing abortions because it could not meet a separate state requirement. But it did not want to lose the license because of the expense and hassle to reapply.

Laughrey cited the only other time the department tried to revoke a license for an ambulatory surgical center, during which the clinic had time to submit a plan of action and attempt to come back into compliance before the state finally took action.

The attorney general’s office, which represents the state, did not immediately comment Wednesday.

Missouri state officials began investigating the Planned Parenthood abortion business after the Center for Medical Progress released the first of its shocking videos last summer. The investigation revealed a relationship between Planned Parenthood and the University of Michigan.

State Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, discovered a research study being conducted by the university which assists Planned Parenthood in marketing its “abortion services,” Joe Orthweth, of the Missouri Family Policy Council, reported.

The study is being undertaken with university funding at the Reproductive Health Services abortion clinic operated by Planned Parenthood in St. Louis. The purpose of the study, under the auspices of the University’s School of Social Work, is to examine the impact of a recently adopted Missouri law requiring a 72-hour period for abortions.

“It is difficult to understand how a research study approved by the University, conducted by a University student, and overseen by the Director of Social Work, can be perceived as anything but an expenditure of public funds to aid Planned Parenthood…in violation of Missouri law,” Schaefer wrote in a letter to former University Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin.

Missouri law expressly prohibits the use of state employees, state facilities or state funds to assist in the performance of elective abortions.

In November, Schaefer received death threats that he believes are related to his investigation of Planned Parenthood and its connection to the university, LifeNews reported.