JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Sanctity of Life Committee heard public testimony regarding the two scandals revolving around Planned Parenthood in the state of Missouri.
Testimony largely came from anti-abortion advocates, but sparks flew when Susan Gibson of the National Association for Women got into a shouting match with Sen. Bob Onder, R-St. Charles.
Gibson took serious issue with the tone and timbre of the committee’s investigation.
“I question both your understanding of what you are investigating and your ability to do so fairly and dispassionately,” she said. “It has been clear since the beginning of this witch hunt that Planned Parenthood of Missouri does not participate in the fetal tissue donation program, that you have jumped on the opportunity provided by the deceptive videos to limit access to reproductive freedom for women.”
She also criticized what she saw as the committee’s use of certain terms she considered biased, namely the use of “baby” instead of “fetus” among others. Onder jumped on that distinction.
“It’s the product of conception,” he said. “Do you know whether any physicians who do abortions in this state also have obstetrical practices. Do you think when they go back to their obstetrics offices and a woman is expecting a baby, well expecting a fetus on the ultrasound, do they refer to it as a baby or a fetus?”
However, Gibson had an ally in Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, the lone Democrat member of the committee present at the hearing Schupp credited Gibson for her testimony while also highlighting what she saw as inconsistencies with the committee’s investigation thus far.
“We’re bringing in a lot of ancillary people to discuss a lot of ancillary issues,” Schupp said. “We’re spending a lot of time and effort and energy and a lot of the people’s time and effort and energy. If we were hearing from the only people who can answer this question directly, we could have already moved on.
“We are legislators in the state of Missouri, and we haven’t even asked the people who have the answers.”
Chair of the Committee Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said the primary reason key figures in the investigation had yet to testify, namely Planned Parenthood or the pathologist they use to dispose of fetal tissue.
“Usually if you want to find the truth, you have to look at all the pieces and see how they fit together, and then bring in the subject of what you’re really looking at because the problem is you only get one whack at it usually,” Schaefer said. “So if we’re going to get somebody to come in, we usually only get one opportunity. So we want to get the lay of the land so we know what questions to ask, what may be occurring or not occurring from some other sources before we bring Planned Parenthood in and ask them.
“It’s pretty standard,” he added.
Former state Sen. Delbert Scott also provided key testimony. In 2007, Scott sponsored legislation that put abortion providers under the same statutes as ASCs. Scott gave insight into the legislative intent behind the statute, which has been brought up in the course of the investigation.
“If the state government thought it was important enough to go get a colonoscopy in a non-hospital setting, there ought to be rules for safety,” Scott said. “If those serious surgeries and sometimes not so serious surgeries justified the use of state regulation, then surely an abortion would merit the same oversight.”
Others who testified included many people from the anti-abortion movement, including Kathy Forck and Joanne Schraeder from 40 Days for Life and Susan Klein of Missouri Right to Life.
Mike Hoey, the executive director of the Missouri Catholic Conference, argued that the University of Missouri had violated a public trust between the school and the state.
“I think people around the state of Missouri love the University, and we expect the best. We expect it to reflect our highest ideals,” Hoey said. “It was shocking and disappointing to find out the University was aiding and abetting the abortion industry. But for the blessing of Mizzou, there would not be the taking of unborn life.”
The University of Missouri has come under scrutiny by the committee for giving Dr. Colleen McNicholas medical privileges at University Hospital, which enabled the Columbia affiliate of Planned Parenthood to restart their abortion procedures.
Schaefer says the testimony was important to give context to the committee’s investigation.
“This is a very important issue for Missourians,” he said. “We heard testimony on both sides, but overwhelmingly there were people who testified today who have dedicated decades of their lives to this issue. It’s a very emotional issue and it’s a rule of law issue… We’re going to make sure those laws are enforced.”