A state Senate committee hearing investigating Planned Parenthood’s operations in Missouri has ended in the threat of legal action against a state agency.
Department of Health and Senior Services Director Gail Vasterling has refused to tell the Senate committee investigating Planned Parenthood what hospital is providing admitting privileges to the Planned Parenthood facility in Columbia. State law requires abortion facilities to have such privileges at a hospital within 15 miles.
Vasterling said the name of the hospital is falls under confidentiality laws but Senator Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) disagrees and accused her of hiding its name.
“Whether it’s under compulsion from contempt under a subpoena or whether it’s judicial order, we are going to find out who that facility is, that they are bending every rule and every law to keep secret,” Schaefer said. He is threatening to find the agency in contempt of the Senate.
Democratic Senator Jill Schupp (D-Creve Coeur) questions whether what Schaefer is threatening goes beyond the Senate’s power, and said she thinks it’s enough that the Director confirm a hospital is fulfilling the statutory requirement.
“It doesn’t require that you know which hospital that is,” said Schupp.
Schupp, who is critical of the direction the committee’s investigation is going and has suggested that some members of the committee may be using it to score political points, suggests there is an ulterior motive to seeking the hospital’s identity.
“I think it’s to perhaps be used to put pressure on a hospital to end that relationship or further question that relationship,” said Schupp.
Schaefer maintains that the Department is “clearly” required by law to give the committee the name of the hospital, and said, “We simply cannot have state agencies violating state law, coming in under a Senate-issued subpoena and not producing documents … there has to be a penalty for that.”
He also rejected the allegation that the committee is being politicized.
“Anyone who says what’s exposing in that video, which is abhorrent on a moral and legal, on any level, to say that somehow bringing that to the attention of the public, that baby parts – lungs, heads, hearts – are being harvested for profit, to say that somehow that’s politicizing it, that’s sickening,” said Schaefer.
The committee will meet again August 21. Schaefer wants Vasterling to give up the name then.