JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Republican members of the dissolved Senate Interim Sanctity of Life Committee released their final findings on Planned Parenthood in a press conference Tuesday after nearly a year of investigation.
The senators, led by Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said they found serious deficiencies in Planned Parenthood’s own paperwork and potential illegalities in their practices and procedures that were described as “callous.”
Schaefer even alleged that Planned Parenthood’s practices had “bordered on outright medical malpractice” and would not have been tolerated for any other health care organization.
Schaefer specifically pointed to an unwillingness or inability of the Planned Parenthood of St. Louis to provide some details on their procedure in submitting fetal remains to pathologist Dr. James Miller of Pathology Services Inc. in St. Louis.
“I think the thing this shows more than anything is there’s either incredibly sloppy records keeping or there’s an intention obfuscation or an attempt to make it very difficult to find out what happens,” Schaefer said.
However, he noted that in some cases, Planned Parenthood sent entire aborted fetuses to Pathology Services, not just the representative sample required by Missouri law. Planned Parenthood may also have submitted those fetuses in a preservative solution called formalin (formaldehyde and water), but the representative sample is not supposed to be sent in any kind of preservative. Ironically, if any kind of biological tissue is put in formaldehyde, it cannot be donated for scientific or medical use as the preservative kills the cells.
Other findings of the investigation included that in 300 surgical pathology reports, which listed the age of the fetus, the type of pathological examination and Miller’s findings, four reports after eight weeks of age listed “no fetal tissue identifiable” although Miller consistently had the same descriptor for remains delivered prior to the eight-week mark. Those four were aged from nine weeks to 20 weeks
Sen. Bob Onder, R-St. Charles, a surgeon by trade, called these “red flags” that should have been investigated by Dr. Miller, Planned Parenthood, and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
“This inattention to detail demonstrates a startling level of recklessness by the medical staff at Planned Parenthood who should have immediately noticed this anomaly,” Onder said.
The senators also alleged the use of digoxin, which can cause cardiac arrest in large enough doses, as a way to skirt the “Born Alive Infant Protection Act,” problems with informed consent forms given to abortion recipients at Planned Parenthood, and that Planned Parenthood’s protocols could “inhibit timely response by emergency medical services” as causes for concern.
After videos last year from the Center for Medial Progress alleged that the national reproductive health care organization, which provides abortions, was selling fetal tissue for a profit, then-Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey created the interim committee to be chaired by Schaefer. The committee met multiple times during the 2015 interim and held investigative hearings that culminated in the suspension of the Columbia Planned Parenthood affiliate’s ambulatory surgical center license after it was discovered the University of Missouri Hospital have given Dr. Colleen McNicolas the privileges required by state law to perform abortions. Planned Parenthood has since successfully won lawsuits against the state for revoking the license under political pressure.
Near the close of the legislative session, Schaefer and Senate leaders threatened to hold Planned Parenthood of St. Louis President and CEO Mary Kogut in contempt of the Senate for refusing to respond to a subpoena to testify in the investigation. Eventually, the two sides came to an agreement in late April, where Kogut would hand over documents, many of which were used in Tuesday’s findings.
Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, noted that after a year of investigations and inquiries, there were still ambiguities in what had actually occurred.
“What is clear is there are many things that are unclear,” Schmitt said. “All sort of things point to this pathologist … and the pathologist does nothing but plead the Fifth Amendment… It’s his constitutional right to do so, but it certainly leaves a lot of unanswered questions.”
Schaefer also believes his investigation proved that the Supreme Court had erred in last week’s judgment in the Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstadt decision, which overturned Texas abortion laws and guidelines that bear similarities to Missouri’s.
“The court’s opinion and our investigation came to two completely different conclusions,” Schaefer said. “Our review shows that the callous treatment by the abortion industry of women requires state legislatures to offer more safeguards not fewer.”
However, Kogut came to a different conclusion, calling this an ongoing part of a politically-motivated “attack” on Planned Parenthood and abortion providers.
“Today’s press conference is just more of the same, as political opportunists in the Missouri Senate signaled their desire to shame Missouri women and men, and deny them access to quality, expert, legal 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.”
Pamela Merritt, the co-director of ReproAction who attended the conference, said that she wanted to know how much the investigation had cost Missouri taxpayers.
“We’re concerned over the amount of money and the fact that there is no accounting over the amount of money,” she said. “There were a lot of rambling accusations, but they have no heat.”
However, Merritt added that she had a “funny feeling” that today marked the close of this investigation into Planned Parenthood by the Senate.
“It had a tone of ‘I’ve done this theatre and now it’s done.'”