MO Planned Parenthood Clinic to Remain Open, for Now

     JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (CN) – A federal judge has temporarily blocked Missouri from revoking the abortion license from a Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia.
     U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey granted the temporary restraining order late Monday. It is set to expire on Wednesday at which time another hearing is set.
     On Monday, Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri sued Peter Lyskowski, the acting director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, seeking to block the department’s decision to revoke the Columbia clinic’s license at the close of business Nov. 30.
     According to the lawsuit, the department’s decision stemmed from the clinic’s abortion provider losing her privileges with Missouri University Health Care on Dec. 1. State law requires the doctor performing abortions to have privileges at a hospital within a 15-minute drive of the abortion clinic.
     The clinic’s doctor is Colleen McNicholas, according to the Kansas City Star, who serves on the faculty at Washington University and has privileges at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.
     “That loss of privileges [at Missouri University] relates in no way to the quality of care provided by the physician or Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri,” the complaint states. “Rather, it is a direct result of recent political attacks on Planned Parenthood by anti-abortion activists.”
     Planned Parenthood claims that in July a group called Center for Medical Progress released “heavily edited and misleading videos” making false claims about Planned Parenthood’s practices, especially in regards to the handling of fetal tissue.
     On Sept. 24, as a result of the fallout from the videos, Planned Parenthood says MU Health Care announced it would revoke Planned Parenthood’s physician privileges as of Dec. 1.
     Planned Parenthood argues in the lawsuit that the state’s health department has allowed the clinic to operate without a physician previously.
     The most recent time the clinic operated without a physician occurred in 2012, when the then-physician quit due to harassment from protesters. Planned Parenthood claims it went 15 months before the state placed its license in suspension status while it searched for a physician.
     Planned Parenthood also claims applying for a new license if the current one is revoked would be expensive and time consuming.
     “Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri most recently applied to have its license reactivated in March of 2015 and it took four months, until July 2015, for the license to be granted,” the complaint states. “The process involved significant staff time spent gathering required documentation to submit to Department of Health and Senior Services, including credentialing information for the physician and staff, policy and procedure information, training documents, proof of various facility inspections, proof that the staff had been checked against the Missouri Family Care Safety Registry, and proof of registration with federal and state drug enforcement authorities, among other items. A full-day inspection of the facility by the department also took place as part of the application process.”
     A spokesman told the Star on Monday that the state health department would not comment on pending litigation.
     If abortions at the Columbia clinic are shut down, the only abortion provider in Missouri would be the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis. Abortions are also provided just across state lines at the group’s clinic in Overland Park, Kansas.
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