MU hospital investigated for facilitating abortions

Chancellor Loftin was called to testify on behalf of the MU hospital and their possible misuse of public funds.
Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin addresses a crowd in the Reynolds Alumni Center. Loftin recently challenged claims that the MU hospital is misusing public funds by facilitating abortion services in Columbia, Mo. Maneater File Photo

As chairman of the Missouri Senate Interim Committee on the Sanctity of Life, Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, is leading the investigations against Planned Parenthood facilities in both St. Louis and Columbia as well as MU’s involvement in making abortion services available.

Hearings were held investigating whether the St. Louis Planned Parenthood facility was selling fetal tissue for profit, despite Planned Parenthood’s claims that no fetal donation program is in place in Missouri. The committee is also investigating the Columbia Planned Parenthood facility’s recent licensure to provide abortions.

While investigations in Indiana, Georgia, South Dakota and other states have concluded that Planned Parenthood is in accordance with all state laws, the investigation in Missouri continues as MU is also being questioned for their involvement in bringing abortion services back to Columbia.

MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin was called to testify at a hearing Aug. 25 as MU was accused of misusing public dollars and breaking the state law. Section 188.205 of the Missouri Revised Statutes outlines that it is “unlawful for any public funds to be expended for the purpose of performing or assisting an abortion, not necessary to save the life of the mother, or for the purpose of encouraging or counseling a woman to have an abortion not necessary to save her life.”

At the hearing, they discussed how St. Louis doctor Colleen McNicholas was hired to carry out abortion services as the physician for the Columbia Planned Parenthood facility with the possible help of MU hospital employees.

“There’s an awful lot of university employees that appear to be recruiting Dr. McNicholas to come to Columbia to basically resume abortion services at the facility, in part with the help of the university through some privileges from the university,” Schaefer said at the hearing.

Throughout the hearing Schaefer read through a series of emails from MU hospital employees regarding talks of bringing a physician to Columbia to resume abortion services. Schaefer questioned why it would be acceptable for MU, a publicly funded institution, be engaged in such activity.

Loftin defended the hospital, claiming that each University hospital doctor has to be credentialed in some manner, and that a lot of the funding for the MU hospital comes from federal dollars, rather than state funds. Loftin also read a statement he said was written by Robert Hess, who advises the University of Missouri System’s General Counsel regarding medical and hospital issues.

“Dr. McNicholas’s application was found to meet medical staff standards,” Loftin read. “The fact that a physician performs abortions at an outside facility is not lawful basis for the university of our privileges under federal law.”

Loftin said MU would potentially have to forfeit $150 million or more per year of public health service funding if they were to stop credentialing all qualified applicants, as that would be discriminatory.

Despite Loftin’s defense of the MU hospital, MU recently canceled agreements in place between the School of Medicine and the Sinclair School of Nursing on Aug. 24.

“There will be no impact on the graduate student training because that agreement hadn’t been used for many years,” said Teresa Snow, corporate director of strategic communications and media relations of MU Health Care.

The agreement was first arranged with the School of Medicine in Aug 2005, and prior to 2007 was required by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education to provide residence positions specializing in OB/GYN the option in training in a performance of abortions.

While the Planned Parenthood Columbia clinic was one location where training could take place, no residence positions ever chose to have that optional training, Snow said.

“One residence did train in other women’s health services between 2007 and 2015, but they did not choose to be trained in the performance of abortions,” Snow said.

However currently ACGME does not require that training position be offered, so no active agreements are in place with the School of Medicine as it is not longer a requirement and the agreement wasn’t being used, Snow said.

The decision to cancel the agreement was made by Loftin, Snow said, as the recent scandals surrounding Planned Parenthood prompted a more thorough review of MU’s policies.

“He asked all the schools and colleges to review the existing agreement, take a look at what we got, see if they’re still in use, see if they’re still needed, and the School of Medicine determined, we don’t need this agreement anymore, and they sent over to cancel it,” Snow said.

Graduate students in the School of Medicine still work with physicians at MU Health Care and train with women’s healthcare specialists in primary care settings at two Missouri OB/GYN associates.

Gail Vasterling, director of Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said in a letter written to Schaefer that Section 197.215.1 requires that surgical procedures be performed only by physicians who have surgical privileges. However, it does not require that a physician have surgical privileges if no surgical procedures will be performed at the facility, which means they can still be licensed to perform non-surgical, or medical abortions.

The Columbia Planned Parenthood facility was issued a license by the state of Missouri on July 15, according to a mid-Missouri Planned Parenthood news release, and is currently only providing medical abortions.

“We believe that, despite having conclusive evidence that Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri does not donate tissue for medical research, Missouri legislators continue to spend valuable taxpayer dollars to convene interim committees with the sole purpose of spreading anti-abortion views and furthering an extreme political agenda to end access to safe, legal abortion in the state,” said Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, in a news release.

Rep. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove, who is the vice chair of the Missouri House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, which is conducting investigations into whether Planned Parenthood facilities are profiting off of fetal tissue in Missouri, said at a recent protest of the Columbia Planned Parenthood facility that there is currently no end date for the investigations, because many of the questions they posed were not answered sufficiently.

Investigations into Planned Parenthood facilities across the nation were sparked after the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion organization, released edited videos of secretly recorded conversations of Planned Parenthood executives and staff, speaking about procedures to remove fetal tissue and distribute it to researchers.

It is unclear when the Sanctity of Life Committee’s next meeting will be, but Schaefer told that it might not be until after the legislature’s veto session Sept. 16.

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