- Associated Press - Thursday, May 26, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri Senate Republicans started examining a regional Planned Parenthood affiliate’s internal records on Thursday, reprising lawmakers’ investigation of the abortion provider after a month of little action.

Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard has designated three Republicans - Sen. Kurt Schaefer, Sen. Eric Schmitt and Todd Scott, an attorney for the Senate Republican Caucus - to review the documents Planned Parenthood provided as part of an April agreement to diffuse a legal confrontation with the Republican-led Senate.

Under the agreement, the Senate’s representatives got a 60-day window to review the documents in the office of Planned Parenthood’s attorney, Chuck Hatfield. More than half that time has elapsed, and Hatfield says neither lawmaker has come to examine the files yet.

Scott visited the office earlier this month to verify Planned Parenthood has produced the records, and he returned Thursday to begin a more systematic review. He will be looking for indications of illegal fetal tissue disposal. But if the paperwork does not prove conclusive one way or the other, Scott said the inquiry’s focus could turn to proposing new reporting requirements for abortion providers.

“At the end of the day, it might raise more questions down the road,” he said.

Planned Parenthood drew scrutiny last year after activists released undercover videos alleging the country’s largest abortion provider illegally profited from fetal tissue sales. Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat who is also running for governor, cleared the organization of wrongdoing, but Republicans insist that questions remain unanswered about how the state’s only abortion provider disposes of fetal tissue.

Senators in November subpoenaed records from Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, including all documents that reference two doctors who appear in the undercover videos and all records on emergency medical personnel dispatched to any clinic. Planned Parenthood initially declined to release the documents, saying the request was too broad and noting that the attorney general already exonerated the organization.

The Senate voted in April to begin the process of holding regional Planned Parenthood CEO Mary Kogut in contempt, a rare move that could have put Kogut in jail for up to 10 days. A week later, they reached an agreement for Planned Parenthood to provide a narrower range of documents in a more limited setting.

Lawmakers also subpoenaed documents from Dr. James Miller, who owns the suburban St. Louis Pathology Services Inc. that reviews fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood. Miller invoked his constitutional right to not incriminate himself.

Schaefer, who is also running for attorney general, was chairman of the Senate committee that investigated Planned Parenthood. Schmitt, who is running for treasurer, also sat on the panel.

Neither responded to messages Thursday seeking comment.

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