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KBIA’s Health & Wealth Desk covers the economy and health of rural and underserved communities in Missouri and beyond. The team produces a weekly radio segment, as well as in-depth features and regular blog posts. The reporting desk is funded by a grant from the University of Missouri, and the Missouri Foundation for Health.Contact the Health & Wealth desk.

Columbia Planned Parenthood Clinic Faces License Deadline

Rebecca Smith

The Columbia Planned Parenthood clinic could potentially lose its license to provide abortion services at midnight on Monday, November 30.

The University of Missouri Health Care System announced in September its “refer and follow” privileges would be discontinued. This category of privileges had been granted to the doctor working with the Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia, and had allowed the clinic to renew abortion services for the first time since 2012.  

Without these privileges, the clinic does not meet all of the requirements necessary for an abortion facility license through the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

The department notified the Planned Parenthood clinic on Sept. 25 and Nov. 25 that its license would be revoked by the department “effective at the facility’s close of business on Nov. 30, 2015.”

In preparation for this license loss, the clinic halted abortion services on Monday, November 23.

Laura McQuade, the President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said the clinic is pursuing multiple courses of action to try and retain their abortion facility license and continue providing abortion services.

“First of all, we are still dealing with the privileging issue,” McQuade explained. “Figuring out whether or not we have privileges packages to submit to MU and also whether or not we could find an alternative provider.”

She said that the doctor currently working with the clinic in Columbia received a letter from the MU Health Care system telling her she was able to submit new privileging packages, which would allow her to apply for new and different privileges through the healthcare system.

McQuade explained that an alternative provider could be a doctor that is trained in abortion services and already works with either MU Health Care or the Boone County Hospital – this way the provider would not need to work about admitting privileges, as privileges would already be established.  

If neither of these options work out, McQuade said the clinic is hoping that the interim Chancellor at University of Missouri in Columbia will take action to assist the clinic.

“We have stood firm with our request to Chancellor Foley to either move Dr. McNicholas into another category of privileges, which would be ideal,” McQuade said. “But at the very least that the University extends the date of termination of the refer and follow privileges to either allow her to go through a privileging process or to allow us sufficient time to have another physician privileged.”

The letter that the Planned Parenthood provider, Dr. McNicholas, received from the MU Health Care System said the privileging process would take a minimum of 45 days, according to McQuade.

“If all of that fails,” McQuade said, “we are looking at our legal options to file, potentially file some sort of legal claim on Monday [November 30] before our license is revoked.”

The legal claim would be against the state, and McQuade said the advantage would be that their license could possibly be suspended rather than revoked in entirety by the Department of Health and Senior Services, as the licensing process takes quite a bit of time.

McQuade said Planned Parenthood is focusing 150 percent on retaining their services here in Mid-Missouri, but if nothing can be done before the license is revoked on December 1:

“If we are not able to achieve that, we have in the past offered travel assistance to patients and so we would again look at that as an option,” McQuade said. “To try and get patients either to St. Louis or to Kansas City depending on where they're located.”  

She said another option for the clinic would be to “consent” patients – this is the signing of a written document stating that “the women gave her the informed consent freely and without coercion from the physician or qualified professional had discussed with her the indicators and contraindicators, and risk factors, including any physical, psychological, or situational factors.”

That definition of consent comes from Missouri Revised Statue 188.039.1 that details the 72-hour wait period in Missouri.

McQuade said once the consenting is done in Columbia, the clinic could then send the patient home for the 72 hour wait period and have them travel, just once, to Kansas City for the actual procedure.

While the Columbia Planned Parenthood clinic could lose its abortion facility license at the end of the day on November 30, its other services will remain as before.

“We will lose our license only for abortion care,” McQuade said. “Certainly not for the provision of the full range of healthcare that we provide at the health center in Columbia.”

She said this includes services like birth control counseling and access, as well as STI detection and treatment, among others.

Rebecca Smith is an award-winning reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth Desk. Born and raised outside of Rolla, Missouri, she has a passion for diving into often overlooked issues that affect the rural populations of her state – especially stories that broaden people’s perception of “rural” life.
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