MU announces it's discontinuing privileges granted to abortion doctor

The University of Missouri has announced it will discontinue a category of doctor privileges it granted last year to a doctor who provides medication-induced abortions at Planned Parenthood in Columbia.

The executive committee of the medical staff of MU Health Care voted unanimously to discontinue "refer and follow" privileges at MU Health care facilities, effective Dec. 1. Dr. Colleen McNicholas, who has performed medication-induced abortions at Planned Parenthood in Columbia since July, is one of two medical providers who have been granted "refer and follow" privileges.

The Department of Health and Senior Services, which oversees licensing requirements for abortion clinics, sent a letter Sept. 25 to Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, stating that the Columbia clinic will have its license revoked Dec. 1 unless it satisfies the hospital privileges requirement. (See letter attached below.) The letter specifically noted that physicians performing abortions at abortion facilities must have staff privileges at a hospital within 15 minutes travel time from the facility.  

A statement from the university noted that the review of its policies and privileges was prompted by inquiries from members of legislature and the public to MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin. Loftin asked medical staff to the review the policies and make recommendations.

With "refer and follow" privileges, McNicholas is only allowed to refer patients to MU Health Care facilities and view their medical records. She is not allowed to admit patients to MU Health facilities or perform abortions or any other procedures there.

"Of the 800 members of MU Health Care's medical staff, two medical providers had refer and follow privileges," said Steve Whitt, chief medical officer of MU Health Care and a member of the executive committee. "Refer and follow privileges only allow physicians to access their own patients' information. This level of access to patient information is already permitted by any referring provider, including those not on MU Health Care's medical staff; therefore, the designation of refer and follow privileges was outdated and unnecessary."

Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, who leads a senate committee investigating Planned Parenthood's practices in Missouri, also announced the news on his Facebook page, adding that "many unborn lives will hopefully be saved as a result."

"Through the course of our investigation, startling facts came to light, our committee dug deeper, and the public made their voices heard," Schaefer noted. "This joyous outcome is proof positive that these committee investigations matter and the result will have eternal significance."

Senator Schaefer also said that the Senate Interim Committee on the Sanctity of Life will continue its investigation, as questions still remain relating to Planned Parenthood facilities in St. Louis and Columbia.

Deacon Sam Lee, a pro-life lobbyist with Campaign Life Missouri, applauded the news, and said he hopes "this means the end of abortions being performed at the Columbia Planned Parenthood. Much credit needs to go to the Catholic faithful, Mizzou alumni and others who urged the university to get out of the abortion business.

The Missouri Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state's bishops, noted that more than 1,000 people to date responded to the MCC's plea to contact MU chancellor Loftin and the university's board of curators to urge them to get out of the abortion business. The MCC said it was the biggest response the conference has received on an issue in a long time.

The MCC sent an action alert Sept. 25, asking citizens to thank Loftin and the board of curators for the university's decision. (Visit to fill out a pre-composed thank you letter.)

"We're very grateful for the response of Catholic citizens," said MCC executive director Mike Hoey. "It made a huge difference. We've called Mizzou back to its core values, which includes protecting the sanctity and dignity of all human life. Hopefully this will lead to the closing of the abortion industry completely in Columbia." 

Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri CEO Laura McQuade issued a statement, expressing outrage that MU Health Care "caved to the political pressure." McQuade also vowed that Planned Parenthood will take any necessary legal action.

"We condemn MU Health Care for abusing public trust by denying the community access to the health care they deserve, despite their core mission to advance patient-centered care and promote the health and well-being of all Missourians," McQuade said in the statement. 


As part of its review, MU Health Care is also proposing changes to its privileging process that will include additional review of the contributions applicants will make to MU Health Care's multiple missions of providing patient and family-centered care, education and research.

The proposed changes to the Credentials Procedure Manual are intended to help officials confirm that providers who are not MU employees meet the qualifications for privileges, while also contributing to the three missions of MU Health Care and the University of Missouri, the university said. 

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