- Associated Press - Monday, January 4, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Republican-led Missouri legislative panel has recommended that the leader of a Planned Parenthood chapter should be held in contempt for refusing to share abortion-related documents with lawmakers.

The request targeting Mary Kogut, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, came from the Interim Committee on the Sanctity of Life, a panel Missouri senators launched last year after anti-abortion activists released videos they said showed Planned Parenthood personnel negotiating the sale of fetal organs.

The Missouri Constitution allows the Senate to punish those who demonstrate “contemptuous behavior in its presence during its sessions” with up to a $300 fine, 10 days in jail or both. Senate Republican spokeswoman Lauren Hieger said a senator would next need to file a resolution detailing the alleged contempt in order to move forward against Planned Parenthood. The two Democrats on the committee didn’t sign the report.

Some members of the Interim Committee on the Sanctity of Life wanted documents of any incidents that required an ambulance and written protocols for performing abortions. A letter from a Planned Parenthood attorney sent last month cited patient privacy concerns and questioned the Senate’s authority to subpoena private organizations, among other concerns.

The Senate panel’s report says “many questions remain unanswered” and recommended continuing the interim panel through the end of the 2016 legislative session in May.

“In order for the committee to carry out its charge to investigate Planned Parenthood, the disposal of fetal remains, and other related issues, members must be able to ask more questions,” the report said.

The St. Louis Planned Parenthood is the only clinic in the state that provides abortions.

Kogut in a statement cited an investigation of Planned Parenthood by Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster, which found no evidence of wrongdoing. She said the clinic doesn’t participate in a fetal tissue donation program, is regulated by the state health department and complies with state laws.

Kogut said while the Planned Parenthood chapter disputes the authority of the subpoena, “we have told the Committee we are willing to discuss how we might provide documentation relevant to a legitimate legislative inquiry as we did with the Attorney General.”

The committee is recommending similar action against the owner of Pathology Services, Inc., which examines tissue from abortions at the clinic, for refusing to answer a subpoena. Its owner didn’t immediately respond Monday to a request for comment.

“The Planned Parenthood videos, while heavily edited, were troubling to me,” Creve Coeur Democratic Sen. Jill Schupp said in a Monday statement. “Unfortunately, this committee has devoted little attention to its stated mission and has instead morphed into a politically motivated witch hunt.”

The 2016 legislative session begins Wednesday.

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