- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 21, 2015

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri’s Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster launched an investigation Tuesday into the state’s only clinic that offers abortions, following an outcry over a Planned Parenthood executive discussing in a secretly recorded video the disposition of parts from aborted fetuses.

Mr. Koster declined to give specifics on what his investigation, one of three announced since last week, would entail.

Officials in several other states, principally Republicans, have ordered investigations of Planned Parenthood facilities in their own states to determine if organs from aborted fetuses were being sold.

“Regardless of whether one is pro-life or pro-choice, the questions raised by these videos require careful review,” Mr. Koster, who also is running for governor, said in a statement. “My office will investigate whether the practices described have occurred within our state and whether Missouri law has been violated.”

The recording by anti-abortion activists released last week shows Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical services, discussing procedures for providing fetal body parts to researchers. The commercial sale of fetal tissue is illegal, but Planned Parenthood has said it legally helps women who want to make not-for-profit donations of their fetus’ organs for scientific research.

Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri issued a statement saying the center does not participate in the program and that calls for an investigation are about “political grandstanding.”

Republican Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey said Tuesday that his chamber will also conduct an investigation, analyzing Planned Parenthood’s business model, methods of disposing aborted fetuses and whether the organization has broken any laws. That comes after Republican House members last week made a similar announcement.

Despite the two other reviews, the issue “rises to the level that the Senate would like to look into” itself, Senate Republican spokeswoman Lauren Hieger said.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Koster declined to comment further, citing the pending investigation.

Mr. Koster is rare as a Democrat taking such action. In addition to the investigations ordered by the Republican governors of Georgia and Indiana and Ohio’s attorney general, three Republican-led congressional committees have also announced probes.

Planned Parenthood told Congress on Monday that the recording is fraudulent and part of a pattern of harassment.

As a Republican in the Missouri Senate — before switching parties and running for attorney general as a Democrat in 2008 — Mr. Koster had voted in favor of some legislation imposing additional restrictions on abortion clinics. One of the issues he cited in switching parties, though, was a rift with the GOP over a Republican push to criminalize embryonic stem cell research.

Mr. Koster is the only Democrat planning to run for governor in 2016. Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon is barred from seeking re-election because of term limits.

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