Missouri lawmakers consider abortion legislation as session closes

With three weeks left in Missouri's legislative session, some lawmakers continue to push measures that address the handling of remains of aborted babies and a plan to strip funding from Planned Parenthood.

The bills are the culmination of a legislative investigation into how abortions are conducted in Missouri. The investigation was prompted by a series of undercover videos, released last year by the Center for Medical Progress, that appeared to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of fetal body parts.

The House gave final approval to measures that would require the remains of aborted babies be sent to a pathologist, who must report the estimated age of the baby and whether all of the remains were received. The bills, HCS HBs 2069 and 2371, are sponsored by Rep. Diane Franklin (R-Camdenton).

The legislation also requires the Department of Health and Senior Services to check the report on each abortion with its corresponding pathology report; all of the information received by the department must be included in annual report to the General Assembly. The bills provide whistle-blower protection to employees of abortion clinics and hospitals who report illegal use of body parts from aborted babies. According to Deacon Sam Lee of Campaign Life Missouri, the whistle-blower protection would be the first in the country.

"This bill is important to have accountability of where the body parts of these unborn babies are going and more transparency in the process by requiring thorough reports by pathology lab and Department of Health and Senior Services," Deacon Lee said. "We're grateful that state lawmakers are considering these important reforms after what has been uncovered by the videos." The bill awaits a hearing by the Senate.

The Senate also is moving forward in its effort to summon Mary Kogut, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, and Dr. James Miller, owner of Pathology Services, to the Senate on April 25 to answer why they have not complied with a subpoena requesting documentation that shows how they handle fetal remains. Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia), chair of the Senate Interim Committee on the Sanctity of Life, filed resolutions (SR 1793 and 1794) summoning Kogut and Miller.

"We're looking for documentation and policy that shows how they dispose of body parts that are the result of surgical abortions at the Planned Parenthood in St. Louis," Schaefer told the Review. "They have to have an internal policy and protocol for how that is handled."

Schaefer also disputed complaints from Planned Parenthood that he requested patient information.

"We have made it clear that no personally identifiable information is requested," Schaefer said in a statement. "We have been working with their attorneys, and I believe we will receive some sort of documents by April 25. If not, we have the option of moving to the next step in this process, which would be to file another resolution outlining the possible punishments for contempt."

Last September, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster released a report in which he said Planned Parenthood is complying with Missouri law in how it disposes of human tissue from abortions. Pro-life critics called the investigation "incomplete," adding that it raises questions about how Missouri law holds the abortion provider accountable for its handling of human remains.

In February, medical waste company MedAssure was fined $9,000 by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management for illegally accepting medical waste that included fetal remains from Pathology Services Inc. Koster's office reviewed documents from a 30-day period tracing the pathology lab's process for receiving and disposing of remains. Those records showed a relationship with MedAssure and its facility in Indianapolis, Ind.

As part of the review, Koster's office interviewed representatives from Planned Parenthood and Pathology Services Inc. But the office did not have direct contact with MedAssure as part of its investigation, according to Nanci Gonder, a spokeswoman for Koster's office.

The House and Senate also have proposed budgets that would restrict Medicaid from going to Planned Parenthood. The Senate Budget Committee, chaired by Schaefer, approved a budget that reduced Medicaid spending by about $55 million. The committee also crafted language that would put the money into other resources where women can receive health care services, but which don't provide abortions. The House approved a similar budget that would prohibit any abortion provider from receiving Medicaid funding. 

Your rating: None Average: 1.5 (4 votes)