- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 5, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - An attorney for Planned Parenthood told lawmakers Tuesday that the Missouri Senate has demanded a broad array of documents without giving the group a way to negotiate a more narrow agreement.

Planned Parenthood’s attorney Chuck Hatfield said the organization is open to releasing some of the records lawmakers subpoenaed in November. But many of the documents have nothing to do with the Senate’s investigation into fetal tissue donation, he said, and there should be an open process for challenging the subpoena, like there is in court.

The committee investigating Planned Parenthood never discussed whether to subpoena the organization or what to ask for, Hatfield said.

“I’m suggesting to you that we have skipped a step,” he said, adding it wasn’t until late March that the Senate’s attorney said Planned Parenthood could redact information that would identify individual patients.

Republican Sen. Kurt Schaefer said that argument amounts to a stalling tactic.

“This is just a smoke screen,” he said. Tuesday’s hearing was part of how lawmakers will resolve the dispute over the subpoena, he said, and objecting to part of the order is not an excuse to ignore the entire thing.

Hatfield said he made a strategic decision for Planned Parenthood not to turn over any documents until lawmakers acknowledged the group’s objections.

Schaefer, who chaired the committee investigating Planned Parenthood, has proposed holding in contempt Mary Kogut, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, as well as Dr. James Miller, owner of the suburban St. Louis Pathology Services Inc. that reviews tissue from Planned Parenthood.

Republican Sen. Mike Kehoe, chairman of the separate committee considering the contempt resolution, said the panel plans to vote on it Thursday.

The resolution would order Kogut and Miller to appear in the Senate at 10 a.m. on April 18 to produce the subpoenaed documents. Schaefer said they could invoke their Fifth Amendment right not to answer questions that could incriminate themselves.

The Missouri Constitution allows lawmakers punish people found in contempt with a $300 fine, ten days in county jail or both. The most recent contempt proceedings legislative researchers have found date to 1903.

Lawmakers’ ability to subpoena documents, rather than just personal testimony, was codified into law only in 2011, and courts have not yet addressed the matter, Hatfield said.

“Every time there’s been a dispute about a subpoena, a court has touched it,” he said, noting that the U.S. Congress has taken Backpage.com to court over its subpoena.

“When I was in eighth grade, I learned there were three branches of government, and the legislative branch doesn’t get to just be the prosecutor, the executor and the judge,” Hatfield said.

After the hearing, the Senate appropriations committee, which Schaefer also chairs, agreed to block Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid funding - a provision the House passed earlier this month in its budget plan.

In the Capitol Rotunda, more than a hundred people rallied against the organization. A regional Students For Life of America organizer led the crowd in a chant, calling, “What do we want?” ”Defund Planned Parenthood,” the group shouted back. They also called for inspections and accountability.

____

Associated Press writer Summer Ballentine contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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