- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 5, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri Senate investigation into Planned Parenthood found no evidence that the organization illegally sold fetal tissue but did raise questions about the procedures for disposal or testing of such tissue, Republican leaders of the probe said Tuesday.

At a news conference, the Republicans accused Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri of troubling gaps in record keeping, The Columbia Daily Tribune reported (https://bit.ly/29vbLfX ).

Planned Parenthood has vehemently denied it ever sold fetal tissue. It is legal to use fetal tissue for research and to accept payment for storing and shipping donated tissues but illegal to provide it for commercial sale.

Mary Kogut, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, accused lawmakers of being more interested in denying access to abortion services than in finding the truth.

“Political opportunists in the Missouri Senate signaled their desire to shame Missouri women and men and deny them access to . health care instead of focusing on the priorities of the people of our state,” she said in a statement. “The time for them to move on from this sham has long since passed.”

State Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said pathology reports obtained for the investigation were sloppy. Planned Parenthood says it packs the fetal tissue in a preservative before shipping it to James Miller’s Pathology Services Inc. lab, but state laws requires samples that go to the lab not be kept in a preservative, he said.

“There is either incredibly sloppy record keeping or, there is an obfuscation, an attempt to make it very difficult to find out what in fact happens,” Schaefer said.

The legislators also noted that materials Planned Parenthood gives to women seeking abortions encourage them to call the clinic if they have complications rather than calling 911 for emergency services.

The investigation began in July 2015 after an anti-abortion group released undercover videos that claimed to show top Planned Parenthood officials discussing commercial trade in fetal tissue for research. The videos have been called misleading and the producers were indicted in Texas for tampering with government records and purchasing human organs. No Planned Parenthood has been charged with violating laws governing fetal tissue research.

Democratic members of the senate committee did not sign Tuesday’s report. Schaefer said the committee has not technically existed since January and the documents obtained by the Senate subpoena were circulated only among interested Republicans.

State Sen. Jill Schupp, a Democrat from Creve Coeur and a member of the committee, said the continuing investigation was a waste of time and money.

“The information that launched this investigation has been widely discredited,” Schupp said. “It is a misuse of taxpayer time and dollars to undermine a woman’s access to the full range of safe, legal and affordable reproductive health care services.”

The lawmakers at the news conference Tuesday included Schaefer, a candidate for attorney general; Sen. Eric Schmitt of Glendale, a candidate for state treasurer; and Sen. Will Kraus of Lee’s Summit, a candidate for secretary of state.

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Information from: Columbia Daily Tribune, https://www.columbiatribune.com


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