Colleen McNicholas is a physician in good standing who serves on the faculty of Washington University and practices in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, one of St. Louis’ premiere health facilities.
Former University of Missouri hancellor R. Bowen Loftin acted in pure cowardice earlier this year when, under intense political pressure, he agreed to revoke low-level admitting privileges for McNicholas at MU’s hospital, the University of Missouri Health System.
That decision means McNicholas cannot perform non-surgical abortions at Planned Parenthood’s Columbia clinic after Monday. A state law requires doctors who perform abortions to have privileges at a nearby hospital.
The university’s new leadership should correct Loftin’s mistake. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem inclined to do so.
Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid Missouri, told reporters that her efforts to meet with interim Chancellor Hank Foley this week were quashed Tuesday night, when a staffer said Foley was too busy to get together.
Mizzou has a lot going on right now, and no doubt the interim chancellor is very busy. But the Planned Parenthood situation is high on the university system’s list of urgent problems.
No academic institution should cave in to bullying state legislators seeking to score political points by attacking facilities and physicians for performing legal abortions. That’s what Loftin did when he canceled the category of hospital privileges held by McNicholas and one other doctor. Known as “refer and follow” privileges, the designation is a safeguard for physicians who rarely need to admit patients.
A failure by Foley to take a stand for academic independence will leave Planned Parenthood with the options of pursuing legal action, finding another doctor with admitting privileges at MU’s hospital to perform abortions, or securing privileges for McNicholas at nearby Boone Hospital Center in Columbia.
An indefinite shutdown of abortion services in mid-Missouri would force women to travel hundreds of miles to clinics in St. Louis and Kansas to obtain a legal medical procedure. Missouri’s flagship research university should not play a role in making that happen.