The University of Missouri’s shameful decision to revoke a doctor’s hospital referral privileges in response to political pressure harms women and is a blow to academic independence.
The university announced Thursday it was eliminating a category of physician privilege called “refer and follow,” which essentially enables doctors to refer patients to the University of Missouri Health Care hospital and access the patient’s records.
Only two doctors hold the low-level status. One is Colleen McNicholas, who requested and obtained refer and follow privileges so that Planned Parenthood could resume nonsurgical abortions at its Columbia clinic in the summer. Under state law, a doctor must have clinical privileges at a hospital within 30 miles in order to perform abortions.
Barring a successful appeal, the university’s revocation of the status means Planned Parenthood must cease offering abortions in mid-Missouri on Dec. 1. Women will have to travel to the Kansas City or St. Louis areas, adding to stress and trauma for many.
The university had been under intense pressure from Republican senators on a special committee convened to harass Planned Parenthood.
Kurt Schaefer, who represents Columbia and is the Senate’s appropriations chairman, barraged the university with requests for documents and harshly interrogated the chancellor, R. Bowen Loftin, during hearings. Schaefer has also hinted that cuts to university funding might result from the granting of privileges to McNicholas.
That’s an alarming abuse of power that the university has now rewarded with its acquiescence. Abortion is a legal medical procedure. Politicians choose to ignore that reality, but a public university should not.