How One Lawmaker and One University Could Leave Missouri With Just One Abortion Clinic
Missouri state Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) is the head of the state Senate’s Sanctity of Life Committee, which is investigating claims made in doctored videos that Planned Parenthood is illegally “selling” fetal tissue. Missouri’s Planned Parenthood clinics don’t even participate in fetal tissue research, and since Missouri’s attorney general and investigations in other states have already found no wrongdoing, Schaefer’s inquiry seemed destined to be a dead end. But Schaefer is still investigating — and his critics argue that those investigations unjustly pressured MU into revoking Planned Parenthood’s license to perform abortions at its Columbia location.
Planned Parenthood operates the only two abortion clinics in Missouri: one in St. Louis on the state’s eastern border, and one in Columbia near the university in central Missouri. The Columbia clinic got licensed to operate this summer after its new physician obtained “refer and follow” privileges to University of Missouri hospitals. Doctors aren’t allowed to provide abortions in Missouri unless they obtain admitting privileges — an arrangement between a doctor and a nearby hospital that lets the doctor admit patients there.
But Schaefer claimed that the clinic’s refer and follow privileges weren’t sufficient under state law. (The state’s health department director disagreed with him on that.) Furthermore, Schaefer told Vox, a public facility like the University of Missouri should have no business helping abortion providers get licensed in the first place. That violates state law by using public funds to assist with abortion, he said.
If Schaefer is right about this, it would create a Catch-22 for Planned Parenthood. Whether he’s right is debatable. Missouri state law does bar state employees from “performing or assisting an abortion” and “encouraging or counseling a woman to have an abortion.” But Schaefer targeted Mizzou for something much less direct than that; he told Vox the university probably broke the law by “using itself as the catalyst” so that “abortions could resume” at the Columbia clinic.