Opponents pressure MU\'s Loftin to cut ties with Planned Parenthood

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COLUMBIA - The coalition of religious organizations and abortion opponents Friday presented MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin with letters and petitions from mid-Missourians stating they do not want the university to be involved with Planned Parenthood, using tax dollars.

The groups said they gave Loftin 3,000 signed letters and 600 petitions from people who want the university to stand by an earlier decision to cut ties with a doctor who performs medical abortions for Planned Parenthood.

The groups include Team P.L.A.Y and 40 Days of Life.

Bonnie Lee, a member of 40 Days of Life, said she doesn't want her tax money to, in any way, support Planned Parenthood.

"As of Saturday, we have put out a letter asking for support for people to sign of support of Chancellor Loftin's correct decision in severing the contracts with Planned Parenthood, not just Chancellor Loftin, it's also the board of curators. They were part of that decision too, and we're supporting them," Lee said. "We know he's been under heavy fire and we want him to know that many Missourians are backing him, his decisions to obey the law and to prevent my tax money from either assisting or promoting abortion in any way."  

But one thing Lee said her and other anti-abortion activists are concerned about is MU nursing and social work students using Planned Parenthood as a classroom.

“If you have students here that are coming from, whether its the nursing program or the social work program, and they'r coming and learning how to counsel women for abortions and talking to them, that's promoting abortion," Lee said. "And I, as a Missouri resident, do not want my tax money involved in that."

The university's relationship to Planned Parenthood has been under fire by Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, launched a committee investigation into the organization following allegations Planned Parenthood was selling fetal tissue. While Attorney General Chris Koster concluded Planned Parenthood had done nothing wrong, Schaefer vowed to continue fighting MU's connection to the organization.

Lee said she believes MU should not have any type of connection with facilities, or employees working with the abortions. 

Thursday, Schaefer raised new questions, saying academic research by students involves Planned Parenthood of St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri. 

Laura McQuade, the President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, issued a statement Friday in response:

“While it is hardly surprising that Senator Schaefer continues to attack the University of Missouri, it is disappointing that the Senator continues using taxpayer funds for political grandstanding. We call on Chancellor Loftin to remain stalwart in the face of political interference with academic freedom. Over 2,500 students and community members spoke out earlier this week in support of contracts and physician privileges between MU and Planned Parenthood; the Chancellor should heed those voices and act in the interest of students and his community, not politicians advancing their careers at MU’s expense.”

McQuade told KOMU 8 News she hopes Loftin does not cave to political pressure.

“We hoped that Chancellor Loftin stands firm on his own individual beliefs and certainly the belief of MU as an institution of higher learning in Missouri, and does everything in his power to protect academic freedom.” McQuade said.

A doctor who performs medical abortions for Planned Parenthood has had privileges to refer patients to MU Health Care and follow their progress. That contract is scheduled to end Dec. 1.