- Associated Press - Friday, July 17, 2015

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Two Republican state lawmakers from Missouri announced plans Friday to investigate the state’s only abortion facility after anti-abortion activists released an undercover video showing Planned Parenthood’s national medical director discussing the disposition of parts from aborted fetuses.

The video, which shows Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical services, discussing procedures for providing fetal body parts to researchers, has spurred outrage from a number of Republican elected officials nationwide.

While the commercial sale of fetal tissue is outlawed, Planned Parenthood, which provides abortions and other reproductive health services, said in response to the video that it legally helps women who want to make not-for-profit donations of their fetus’ organs for scientific research.

Republican Reps. Andrew Koenig, chair of the Missouri’s House Ways and Means Committee, and Diane Franklin, chair of the House Children and Families Committee, said they will coordinate a joint investigation into whether the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis sold aborted fetuses for profit. The investigation follows similar investigations in Georgia and Indiana, as well as a probe announced Wednesday by three Republican-led congressional committees.

“Our committees will work together to investigate whether similar crimes have taken place here in Missouri, and to determine if our laws need to be strengthened to ensure they do not happen ever again,” said Koenig, of Manchester.

The video released Tuesday that shows Nucatola referring to fetal hearts, lungs and livers and to efforts to retrieve these organs intact rather than crush them during an abortion procedure, was produced by the Irvine, California-based Center for Medical Progress, which collaborated with several national anti-abortion organizations. Planned Parenthood officials said Thursday that Nucatola has been “reprimanded” but did not elaborate.

Ann Wade, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said Friday the Missouri investigation is “moot” because none of the Missouri Planned Parenthood facilities participate in the fetal program.

“We follow all laws and we try to service our patients with as much care and respect possible. It’s really just political posturing to suggest these types of allegations,” Wade said.

A March state health inspection of Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis facility found it failed to ensure expired medications weren’t available for patient use, protect sterile instruments from dust, monitor the humidity in the instrument area and replace worn patient care items. The report said the problems had been addressed by a June re-inspection.

Koenig said the investigation would entail joint committee hearings, but that it was unclear when those hearings would begin. He also said he’s aware Planned Parenthood says it’s not involved in the fetal program in Missouri.

“It may be, but I’m not going to just take their word on it,” he said.

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