The state Senate Committee probing Planned Parenthood’s operations in Missouri has taken public testimony about whether it is exploring legitimate questions of law, or conducting a witch hunt based on lies.
The committee was formed after an anti-abortion group began releasing videos of undercover conversations with key members of Planned Parenthood, alleging that the organization has illegally profited from the sale of fetal tissue. Republican leaders say the committee is investigating whether any such activity is taking place in Missouri.
Mike Hoey with the Missouri Catholic Conference says the committee’s job is legitimate.
“We don’t know the facts in Missouri and so the investigation to get the facts, to understand what’s going on in Missouri, that’s the responsible way to approach it and that’s the way you’ve been approaching it,” he told the committee.
Planned Parenthood and its supporters say the videos are misleading and heavily edited, and say the response by Missouri’s legislature and in other states is capitalizing off their deception.
Susan Gibson with the National Organization for Women said the committee is a sham.
“It has been clear from 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 further erode access to reproductive freedom,” said Gibson.
Gibson accused the committee of using “inflammatory language” when using the terms “babies” and “body parts,” rather than “fetus” and “cells.” She said the committee should refer to them as, “The products of conception. It’s not a baby until it’s been born.”
Senator Bob Onder (R-Lake Saint Louis) defended the committee’s terminology, noting that used by the Planned Parenthood representatives in the undercover videos.
“You object to the term body parts … they talked about livers and hearts and lungs and extremities, they talked about maybe muscle being the part of interest in there. Aren’t livers and hearts and lungs, aren’t they body parts?” asked Onder.
Senator Jill Schupp (D-Creve Coeur) commended Gibson for speaking to the Republican-controlled committee and reiterated her opinion that it has never started working on the issue she believed it was formed for.
“The question that arose out of those Planned Parenthood videos of whether Planned Parenthood in Missouri is doing something illegal by selling fetal tissue has not even yet been addressed by this committee,” said Schupp.
The committee’s chairman, Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia), said what the committee has investigated so far goes right to the question of whether anything illegal is happening in Missouri.
“In fact we have looked at the issue of what happens to baby body parts after an abortion is performed, and actually got some very interesting testimony from the last hearing we had on that subject,” said Schaefer.
The committee learned that the state Department of Health does not know what happens to fetal remains after they are examined in the t preparation of a pathology report. Schaefer wants to call the private vendor that handles those remains, Pathology Services, Inc. of St. Louis to testify to the committee about such remains’ final disposition.
He said he also plans to call leaders of Planned Parenthood of Missouri in to testify, and said he is willing to subpoena them or the representatives of Pathology Services, Inc. if necessary.