A special Missouri State Senate committee released the results of its months-long investigation of a local Planned Parenthood affiliate Tuesday, continuing to push the notion that the reproductive health-care provider could be breaking the law in its handling of fetal tissue.
In September, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster affirmed that Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri (PPSLR) was handling fetal tissue in accordance with Missouri law.
Even so, though the senate’s Republican-led Interim Committee on the Sanctity of Life stopped short this week of outright accusing the St. Louis clinic of selling fetal tissue, its members pointed to what they called “serious gaps” in the affiliate’s record as an indication of potential wrongdoing.
The committee, which formed last year in response to widely discredited Center for Medical Progress (CMP) videos accusing Planned Parenthood of profiting from fetal tissue donations, also released a nine-page report outlining its investigation. CMP’s founder, David Daleiden, was indicted earlier this year on felony charges in connection with the videos’ creation.
The committee’s chairperson, Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia), said in a Tuesday press conference that Planned Parenthood could be obfuscating critical information and criticized the clinic of “sloppy record keeping.”
Schaefer, who also panned the recent Supreme Court decision to strike down provisions of an anti-abortion law in Texas, zeroed in on PPSLR’s use of formalin, a preservative that renders fetal tissue donation impossible.
The senate committee, Schaefer said, could not determine whether samples of the affiliate’s fetal tissue sent to the state pathologist had been immersed in formalin and speculated that Planned Parenthood could be using the preservative in a way that allows fetal tissue to be used illegally. The written report noted that although the health-care provider is only legally required to send a “representative sample” to the pathologist, PPSLR often delivered the entire fetus—suggesting to the committee that there could somehow be a sale involved along the line.
PPSLR issued a statement on Tuesday in response to the press event and the committee’s reported findings, saying that it does not, has not, and will never sell fetal tissue.
“Today’s press conference is just more of the same, as political opportunists in the Missouri Senate signaled their desire to shame Missouri women and men, and deny them access to quality, expert, legal health care instead of focusing on the priorities of the people of our state. The time for them to move on from this sham has long since passed,” the statement read.
Ultimately, Schaefer and his peers, including Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Glendale) and Sen. Jeanie Riddle (R-Callaway County), concluded that the committee’s investigation potentially contradicted the attorney general’s investigation last year.
In order to conduct its investigation, the Interim Committee on the Sanctity of Life had subpoenaed Planned Parenthood documents just a month after Koster cleared the St. Louis affiliate of any legal wrongdoing.
PPSLR provided the documents in May, giving senate officials until June 20 to review the information, according to a news report by KOLR-TV of southwest Missouri.
Not long before receiving the documents, the Interim Committee on the Sanctity of Life had attempted to punish Mary Kogut, president and CEO of PPSLR, with fines and jail time because the clinic refused to hand over clinic documents in attempt to protect patient privacy.
Other committee members on Tuesday criticized Planned Parenthood for allegedly endangering pregnant persons during emergencies by not writing “9-1-1” in large enough font on instruction documents for patients, and said the clinic should elaborate on its use of its digoxin in the second trimester and whether fetal tissue is injected with the drug before abortion procedures. Abortion clinics often use digoxin to comply with the federal Born-Alive Infants Protection Act of 2002.
Many Democratic lawmakers and pro-choice institutions have said the committee’s investigation is part of an ongoing attack against abortion care throughout the state. More than a dozen state and federal investigations have not found Planned Parenthood guilty of any wrongdoing.
Earlier this year, the Missouri legislature failed to pass an anti-abortion “personhood” amendment that would have led to a ballot measure in November. If approved by voters, the law would have ended legal abortion in the state by adding fetuses to the list of Missouri residents who have a “natural right to life.”