Judge issues TRO keeping state from revoking the license of one of Missouri’s two abortion clinics

By Dave Andrusko

U.S. District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey

U.S. District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey

A federal judge Monday issued a temporary restraining order blocking the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services from revoking the Columbia Planned Parenthood clinic’s license to perform abortions. The restraining order is set to expire on Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey’s decision came after Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri  filed a lawsuit Monday asking for a TRO that would allow the abortion clinic to keep its license while it searches for an abortionist who can obtain admitting privileges with a local hospital within 30 miles. Such an agreement is required by Missouri state law.

The hearing before Judge Laughrey was held by telephone conference call. Another telephone conference is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. The two days will give attorneys “a chance to address several legal issues,” Jason Hancock of the Kansas City Star explained.

“Planned Parenthood’s doctor, Colleen McNicholas, would have lost her privileges with the University of Missouri on Tuesday, and the state had said it would revoke the clinic’s license at close of business Monday,” Hancock reported.

PPFA and supporters hoped to pressure interim University of Missouri Chancellor Hank Foley to reverse the school’s decision. But in a statement issued yesterday afternoon, Foley said the university had not changed its position.

“The issue of abortion invokes much depth of emotion and passion; I understand this,” Foley said. “However, as a state and federally funded university with a health system, we are required to follow applicable state and federal laws.”

If the clinic does not resume performing chemical abortions, it will mean that Missouri has one abortion clinic–in St. Louis–a clinic which performs both surgical and chemical abortions.

According to Hancock, the lawsuit says that in the past “the state has allowed the Columbia clinic to maintain its license to perform abortions while it searched for a new physician,” noting “that from June 2012 to September 2013 the clinic was without a physician and unable to perform abortions but it kept its license.”

As NRL News Today reported last week, the Columbia clinic was able to meet state law because it enjoyed “refer and follow” privileges with University of Missouri Health Care. Under such an arrangement, the abortionist could refer a patient to the hospital’s doctors for follow up care, typically in an emergency.

All that changed last September, according to Rudi Keller of the Columbia Tribune, when the Center for Medical Progress began publicizing its undercover videos featuring high-ranking Planned Parenthood officials:

A legislative investigation into the disposition of fetal tissue in Missouri also dug into the new license and put a spotlight on the relationship between the university and Planned Parenthood. Former Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin initiated reviews that brought the cancellation of contracts for students to do clinical work and the decision to no longer offer “refer and follow” privileges.

Planned Parenthood “first opened a clinic in Columbia in 1970 and began offering abortions locally in 1974,” Keller explained. “The clinic stopped offering abortions in 2012 after the staff doctor moved away. The clinic’s abortion license was renewed amid a national controversy over videos produced by abortion opponents who accused Planned Parenthood of commercially trading fetal tissue.”

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