Saint Louis — Republican lawmakers gathered with about 75 protestors outside of the Planned Parenthood facility in downtown St. Louis today for a rally demanding an end to Planned Parenthood funding and an investigation into tissue donation programs.
Republicans in the state senate have formed the Sanctity of Life committee in the wake of the release of several videos by the anti-abortion group, the Center for Medical Progress, which appear to show senior Planned Parenthood officials discussing the practice of selling fetal remains to medical laboratories for various research.
While the practice of tissue donation for medical research is common, federal law prohibits the selling of human remains for profit. Planned Parenthood maintains that any fee associated with the practice is strictly to cover appropriate medical shipping costs. But Republican lawmakers and pro-life groups howled that the practice reflects a manipulative and profit-driven organization.
“It’s hot out here today,” said Sen. Kurt Schaefer, chair of the Sanctity of Life committee and a Republican candidate for attorney general in 2016. “But it’s nothing compared to the heat some people are going to be feeling.”
Sen. Bob Onder, a doctor and member of the committee, also attended the rally alongside Sen. Eric Schmitt, a committee member and 2016 state treasurer candidate.
“This committee has an important purpose – to determine whether Planned Parenthood has broken any laws in Missouri, and the extent to which those criminal acts have harmed unborn children,” Schmitt said in a statement. “The sale of fetal body parts by Planned Parenthood is truly degrading to human life and cannot be permitted to continue.”
Schaefer said his committee was in the process of formally requesting documents from Missouri’s Planned Parenthood operation. Mary Kogut, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said Missouri’s Planned Parenthood operations do not take part in any fetal-tissue donation programs.
“We plan on cooperating with the investigation and making sure it is quick and thorough,” Kogut told The Missouri Times. “We’re out to demonstrate that the services we provide are compassionate, ethical, and in compliance with the law.”
Kogut said the released videos paint a “false picture” of Planned Parenthood’s operations and practices.
“We have been the most trusted name in women’s reproductive health care for almost 100 years,” Kogut said. “Abortion services are very important, but it’s a small percent of what we provide. The vast majority of our services are prevention care like pap smears and breast exams for women, STD screening and treatment, vasectomy treatment, and so on.”
Attendees at the rally, which was organized by the anti-abortion group “Women Betrayed” chanted for the defunding of Planned Parenthood and the prosecution of its administrators. Kogut said she hoped Planned Parenthood could continue to providing care for women.
“We do more than any other organization to prevent unwanted pregnancies,” Kogut said. “We do our work with compassion and commitment and we want to do that every single day our doors are open to those who need us.”
Planned Parenthood in Missouri provides various care to roughly 70,000 individuals annually, with more than 45,000 in the St. Louis region alone.
Schaefer’s committee met once earlier this week and said their next meeting would come as more documents were organized in “a few weeks.”