State of abortion services in Missouri in flux as deadlines near

A abortion doctor at Planned Parenthood in Columbia who is expected to lose her physician's privileges next month has asked the University of Missouri Health Care about reapplying for privileges.

Dr. Colleen McNicholas, who has been performing medication-induced abortions at at the Columbia clinic, is one is one of two medical providers who were granted "refer and follow" privileges by MU. In September, 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.

MU Health Care public relations manager Mary Jenkins said the medical staff office is preparing documents McNicholas will need to apply, although the doctor has not specified what type of privileges she will seek. The privileging process, which can take several months, begins with the chair of the department in which a doctor is seeking privileges, Jenkins said.

Abortion rights supporters are pushing for the university to change its mind, while pro-lifers are urging MU to stay out of the abortion business.

"I wish the university was not even offering abortion doctors an opportunity to receive hospital privileges, but I do remain hopeful that abortions will end at that clinic on Dec. 1, regardless," said pro-life lobbyist Deacon Sam Lee of Campaign Life Missouri.

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. Missouri law requires physicians performing abortions at abortion facilities to have staff privileges at a hospital within 15 minutes travel time from the facility.

Last month, University of Missouri students and faculty and a group called MU for PP delivered more than 2,000 petitions to outgoing chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, calling on him to reverse the decision to cancel contracts with Planned Parenthood and eliminate privileges at MU Health Care for Dr. McNicholas.

"The clock is ticking for Chancellor Loftin to restore physician privileges by Dec. 1, a critical step ensuring that the full range of high quality reproductive health care services, including abortion, remain legal, available and accessible in Mid-Missouri," according to a statement from Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. "The citizens of Missouri will not tolerate going back to being a single provider state."

The Missouri Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state's bishops, last week issued an action alert, urging people to contact MU's board of curators and interim chancellor Hank Foley. To send a precomposed email, visit

"Due to the tremendous response from you and thousands of other Missouri citizens, abortion doctor Colleen McNicholas will no longer have privileges at the University of Missouri hospital effective Dec. 1," according to the MCC statement. "That will be the case unless MU officials reverse course and give her new hospital privileges. That could happen because of the campaign Planned Parenthood is now waging at MU."

Missouri legislators also are looking forward to proposing legislation to defund Planned Parenthood in Missouri, among other measures. Legislators will begin prefiling bills beginning Dec. 1.

Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, said he wants to further tighten any laws that prohibit public facilities and tax dollars from being used for abortion. Additionally, he plans to propose legislation requiring more thorough inspections of abortion clinics, a measure that didn't pass last session.

Onder is a member of the Senate Interim Committee on the Sanctity of Life, which is soon expected to wrap up its investigation of Planned Parenthood's activity in Missouri. Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, is chair of the committee. 

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