The first legislation stemming from this summer’s hearings on Planned Parenthood has been filed.
The Republican-led state House and Senate held hearings after the release of videos by an anti-abortion activist group alleging Planned Parenthood had sold fetal tissue for profit. Those hearings included testimony on, among other things, the operation of the Planned Parenthood facilities in St. Louis and Columbia.
Senator Bob Onder (R-Lake St. Louis) said he thought those hearings raised a lot of issues, such as whether Missouri has enough oversight in what happens with fetal tissue after an abortion.
“I don’t believe [sufficient oversight] has been going on, in fact I know it hasn’t been going on according to the testimony that we heard from Department of Health Officials. We need to be assured that we know what’s happening with these fetal remains and that the law is not being broken in that area as well,” Onder told Missourinet.
He proposes that all tissue be sent to a pathologist after an abortion, not just a sample as is the practice now. He also proposes that pathologists confirm all tissue has been disposed of according to law.
The bill would also require the Department of Health and Senior Services report annually to the General Assembly on each abortion reported to the department. The report would include for each abortion the termination procedure used and a clinical estimation of gestational age; whether the Department received a report of the tissue remaining after that abortion and certification of its disposal; and an explanation of any inconsistencies between the physician’s abortion report to the Department and the pathologist’s submitted tissue report.
Another provision aims to clarify what privileges a doctor must have at a nearby hospital in order to perform abortions. Onder, a physician, says the privileges Dr. Colleen McNicholas had while performing abortions in Columbia wouldn’t help her protect a woman’s health.
“The privileges that McNicholas had were so-called ‘refer and follow privileges.’ All they gave her the right to do is to refer to the hospital. For that matter, you or I could refer to the hospital,” said Onder. “And then for her to look at the patient’s electronic medical records. That does not meet the letter or the spirit of the statute, and I really believe that the Department of Health and Senior Services broke the law when they issued the [ambulatory surgical center] license to the [Columbia Planned parenthood facility].”
Privileges of the type Doctor McNicholas had were eliminated by the University of Missouri health system and Planned Parenthood in Columbia was to lose its license to perform abortions before a federal judge allowed it to continue while a lawsuit it filed, seeking to keep the Department from pulling that license, is considered. Meanwhile a law similar to Missouri’s, requiring clinical privileges for abortion providers in Texas, is being challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Onder’s bill would also bar the donation or gift of fetal tissue and organs resulting from an abortion, “to any person or entity for medical, scientific, experimental, therapeutic, or any other use.”
It would prohibit the Department from issuing or renewing an ambulatory surgical center license to applicants who fail to meet the requirements of any applicable state or federal law, and specifies the Department will not waive that requirement as a condition of any litigation, settlement, or other agreement. The Senate committee heard from then DHSS Director Gail Vasterling that the Department agreed to issue a license to Planned Parenthood in Columbia because it was only providing abortions induced by medicine and not surgical abortions, so McNicholas’ “refer and follow” privileges would be sufficient.
Onder’s bill would also require DHSS to conduct annual, unannounced, on-site inspections and investigations of facilities where abortions are performed.
The House also held hearings in joint sessions of its committees on Ways and Means, and Children and Families. The chairs of those committees, Representative Andrew Koenig (R-Manchester) and Representative Diane Franklin (R-Camdenton), say they are considering legislation related what they heard in those hearings but are not ready to file it or discuss details.
Onder’s legislation is SB 644.