A wave of pink shirts flooded Speakers Circle as the shouts of Planned Parenthood supporters crashed onto its bricks. The inaugural “Pink Out Day,” held Tuesday, saw an overwhelming number of people of all ages and backgrounds come to Columbia as part of a national event in support of Planned Parenthood.
Holding signs that read, “I stand with Planned Parenthood,” “Schaefer for Führer” and “This Tiger plans for her cubs, I will fight for Planned Parenthood,” demonstrators chanted “M-I-Z, shame on you,” as the rally got underway. With Columbia as one of 15 “anchor” events for the national day of action, close to 1,000 people were present, according to the number of signatures through petitions, said Laura McQuade, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.
In light of MU’s discontinuation of “refer and follow” privileges Sept. 24 and cancellation of multiple agreements with Planned Parenthood that had allowed graduate students to receive training at the Columbia clinic, the demonstrators had multiple demands that they hoped the rally would accomplish.
McQuade said she hopes the rally pushes MU to reinstate privileges for physician Colleen McNicholas, who was able to perform medical abortions at the Columbia clinic, as well as reinstate contracts for students to be able to continue academic partnerships with Planned Parenthood.
“We want to continue to apply as much political pressure to MU to make them feel that they made the wrong decision, and so today is just the first step in galvanizing the public support that we know we have to push back on MU,” McQuade said.
McQuade said she feels Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin’s immediate response to the rally will be silence, and that’s why she said Planned Parenthood and its supporters must keep the pressure on to demand Loftin be held accountable.
Planned Parenthood is planning on doing just that by potentially filing a claim with the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C., sometime this week, McQuade said.
She said they will be analyzing whether MU violated the Church Amendments, a section of federal law that prohibits federally funded hospitals from discriminating against employing individuals based on their willingness or unwillingness to perform abortion services. McQuade said it is “to protect conscious on both sides of the issue.”
Effective Dec. 1, MU Health Care will be discontinuing refer and follow privileges after an executive committee unanimously voted to no longer offer this “outdated” and “unnecessary” category of privileges, as Chief Medical Officer Stevan Whitt said in a news release.
Of MU Health Care’s 800 medical staff, only two medical providers had refer and follow privileges, according to a news release. Teresa Snow, corporate director of strategic communications and media relations of MU Health Care, said that refer and follow privileges were first offered in 2010 to allow healthcare providers to refer patients to MU Health Care’s facilities and follow their patients’ care in MU Health Care’s electronic medical record.
“Today, any healthcare provider can refer patients to our facility and referring providers can request electronic access to our medical record for their referred patients,” Snow said in an email. “Such access does not require the provider to be a member of our medical staff nor hold privileges at MU Health Care facilities.”
However with McNicholas’ refer and follow privileges ending, McQuade said Planned Parenthood is seeking to get McNicholas either credentialed at the Boone Hospital Center or privileges other than refer and follow privileges at MU Health Care.
Snow said McNicholas will be allowed to apply for other privileges with MU Health Care. McQuade said there are a number of privileges that meet the requirements of the law to perform abortion services.
Although McQuade said she hopes Planned Parenthood will be able to regain privileges before Dec. 1 so abortion services at the Columbia clinic will not be interrupted, if they are unable to do so, then they would need to analyze other legal remedies.
While the future of abortion services at the Columbia clinic is under question, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster announced Sept. 28 that based on the investigation into the St. Louis Planned Parenthood clinic, there was no evidence suggesting that the clinic was profiting off of illegal sale of fetal tissue.
McQuade said she hopes this causes both the Senate and the House to cease all investigations in order to focus less on politics and more on the issue of women’s health.
“I think the more that people can take this out of the political realm and take this into the realm of people’s individual lives, that’s what health care is all about,” McQuade said. “It’s about individual people making their own decisions about the health care that they need and the lives they want to live. This isn’t some political discussion happening in Jefferson City or Washington, this is a decision that happens in people’s houses, and people’s cars and people’s doctors offices every day.”