JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Chairman of the Sanctity of Life Committee Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, released the final recommendations from the committee New Year’s Eve.
The committee was founded in July 2015 after videos were released by an anti-abortion organization alleging Planned Parenthood was selling fetal tissue for profit. Since then, the committee established by former President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey has interrogated members of the Department of Health and Human Services and the University of Missouri under subpoena for those two bodies’ role in the obtaining of an abortion license by the Columbia Planned Parenthood affiliate.
However, for the fetal tissue investigation, the committee has not has as much luck. Schaefer noted that two key witnesses; Mary Kogut, the President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of St. Louis and Southwest Missouri, as well as Dr. James Miller of Pathology Services, Inc., the company which processes and disposes of Planned Parenthood’s fetal remains in the state; did not respond to subpoenas for their testimony.
“Missourians deserve answers regarding the disposal of fetal remains and other Planned Parenthood related issues,” Schaefer said. “I believe these individuals have those answers and need to be held accountable.”
As such, Schaefer has recommended initiating contempt proceedings against the two.
“Both of these individuals contain information vital to the committee’s goal,” Schaefer said. “I am committed to using all options necessary to acquire the answers the committee is looking for.”
He also wants to continue the Sanctity of Life Committee’s work into 2016.
However, one of the two Democratic members of the Sanctity of Life Committee, Sen. Jill Schupp, D-St. Louis, said the recommendations were “deeply troubling.”
“The Planned Parenthood videos, while heavily edited, were troubling to me,” she said in a release. “Unfortunately, this committee has devoted little attention to its stated mission and has instead morphed into a politically motivated witch hunt.
“This committee, despite multiple hearings, subpoenas, and sunshine requests, has produced nothing to suggest Planned Parenthood has broken any laws or engaged in unethical practices,” she continued. “Sadly, these facts, while inconvenient, haven’t stopped the chairman from using his committee for political gain. He’s not letting the truth get in the way of a good story.”
In the past, Schupp has not been shy of her belief that Schaefer has used the Sanctity of Life Committee to benefit his run for attorney general. In the release, she heavily implied Schaefer held a grudge against the University of Missouri for granting law professor Josh Hawley a year of leave to run as Schaefer’s opponent in the Republican attorney general primary.
While Schaefer was instrumental in the University of Missouri Hospital revoking privileges from Dr. Colleen McNicolas, the doctor performing abortions at the Columbia facility, Schupp noted that Schaefer has also sought to halt a research project by a graduate student at the School of Social Work. The project examines the effects of Missouri’s mandatory 72-hour waiting period between first consultation for an abortion and the actual abortion procedure.
“This committee has sunk to the level of suppressing academic freedom,” Schupp stated. “Unable to discover any wrongdoings by Planned Parenthood, the committee has mutated into a crusade against women’s healthcare, the University system and academic freedom. The Chairman is literally combing through academics’ research, looking for ‘illegal’ academic inquiries. The transition from medical ethics to criminalizing educational research is deeply troubling.”
Schupp was joined by Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis, as the only two members of the committee to not sign the report. Schupp and Chappelle-Nadal were also the only two Democrats on the committee after former Sen. Paul LeVota’s resignation.