A decision by a federal judge to fully reinstate the operating license of Planned Parenthood's Columbia abortion clinic has drawn sharp criticism from leaders in the Missouri Legislature. At the same time, the ruling leaves the future status of the Columbia facility in legal limbo.
Last month U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey
issued a permanent injunction forbidding the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services from revoking the Columbia clinic's operating license. DHSS officials had withdrawn the license late last year when it became clear that the clinic was no longer in compliance with state regulations governing ambulatory surgical centers.
Those requirements stipulate that physicians performing or inducing abortions must have staff privileges at a hospital within fifteen minutes travel time from the facility. Dr. Colleen McNicholas
, the physician who had been performing abortions at the Columbia clinic, lost the staffing privileges she had been granted by University Hospital in Columbia, which is operated by the University of Missouri Health Care System.
The action by University Hospital's medical board followed investigations by Senate and House legislative committees revealing collusion between University officials and Planned Parenthood managers in obtaining staff privileges for Dr. McNicholas. Missouri law flatly prohibits state institutions, state employees, and state funds from being used in any way to assist in the performance of abortions.
Judge Laughrey's ruling, like so many decisions issued in federal courts these days, was based not on any objective analysis of the law and the constitution, but rather on her own personal opinions about life. Laughrey stated that the Department of Health and Senior Services was "hasty" in its action to revoke the license, and that their decision to do so was "likely the
result of political pressure being exerted by Missouri legislators."
Laughrey also made the outrageous unsubstantiated assertion that DHSS officials proceeded to revoke Planned Parenthood's operating license because of fears that the Legislature would cut their budget if they did not do so. Never mind that the Department was acting to enforce health and safety standards for outpatient surgical centers that have been on the books in the State of Missouri for three decades.Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard
said that Judge Laughrey's decision was unsurprising. "This decision was sadly predictable. This judge has a track-record of left-leaning rulings. I am confident, if appealed, the higher court will promptly overturn this poorly reasoned opinion."
Senator Richard is right about Judge Laughrey's track record on the bench. As documented by Sam Lee of Campaign Life Missouri, Laughrey has issued three previous decisions exempting Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry from compliance with state laws. Judge Laughrey's claim in her current ruling that the Legislature was engaged in "political intimidation" underscores the fact that her ruling had nothing to do with jurisprudence and everything to do with her own personal political sentiments.