Planned Parenthood investigation: Missouri AG finds no wrongdoing

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster conducted a 30-day audit of more than 300 abortions performed by Planned Parenthood in St. Louis and found no evidence of workers selling fetal tissue obtained during the procedures.

Don Shrubshell/Columbia Daily Tribune/AP
Andrew Ward (l.), and Bill Pauls discuss their positions on abortion on July 28 during a rally across the street from the Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri in Columbia, Mo. The Missouri Attorney General's office announced on Monday that a 30-day audit of the St. Louis Planned Parenthood yielded no evidence of mishandled fetal tissue or unlawful activity.

An investigation in Missouri found no evidence that the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis is selling fetal tissue from abortions, the state attorney general announced on Monday.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster launched the investigation after an anti-abortion group released videos over the summer alleging that Planned Parenthood illegally sold fetal tissue in other states. National outrage over the videos triggered similar investigations in a number of states, but so far no Planned Parenthood clinics have been found to be illegally selling fetal tissue.

Planned Parenthood has claimed that the videos, recorded by the California-based Center for Medical Progress, has been heavily edited and “falsely portrays Planned Parenthood’s participation in tissue donation programs that support lifesaving scientific research.”

Mr. Koster’s office interviewed workers at the Planned Parenthood in St. Louis, the only licensed surgical abortion facility in Missouri, and reviewed documents from over 300 abortions during a 30-day audit, the attorney general said in a statement. 

The investigation found that all tissue from abortions was examined at a pathology lab then incinerated. The organization says it has fetal tissue donation programs, but only in two states: California and Washington.

“The evidence reviewed by my investigators supports Planned Parenthood’s representation that fetal tissue is handled in accordance with Missouri law,” Koster added in the statement. “We have discovered no evidence whatsoever to suggest that Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis facility is selling fetal tissue.”

Similar investigations in other states have come to similar conclusions. Near the end of August, investigations in Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, South Dakota and Pennsylvania returned no evidence that Planned Parenthood had violated state laws.

Two different committees in the Republican-controlled US House of Representatives are also investigating Planned Parenthood. Earlier this month ranking Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee announced that their investigation has found "no evidence" to support claims that Planned Parenthood is engaged in any illegal activities. Republicans on the committee have yet to release their findings from the investigation. The House Judiciary Committee is also conducting an investigation.

The CMP videos have also thrust Planned Parenthood into the center of another Congressional budget debate. Republicans at the state and national level have been calling for the investigations. Republicans in Congress tried and failed last week to pass a short-term budget bill that would have defunded Planned Parenthood.

Congress has until Oct. 1 to pass a budget bill that will keep the government funded. Republican hardliners have been looking to force a government shutdown if Planned Parenthood isn’t defunded, but the party’s leaders in Congress seem determined to push through a “clean” short-term budget that would maintain the organization’s funding but also keep the government open, as The Christian Science Monitor reported.

House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio – who was facing a potential leadership vote within his party if he didn’t support the budget showdown – announced last week that he will resign at the end of October, allowing him to oppose the calls for a shutdown from his conference and avoid a vote on his leadership. Congressional Republicans came out of the most recent shutdown in 2013 – precipitated by Republican attempts to delay or defund Obamacare – looking much worse than Democrats or President Obama.

The Monitor also reported last week that, with Boehner’s imminent withdrawal, a government shutdown this fall now seems less likely.

“Speaker Boehner was facing a revolt from the right due to his evident reluctance to force a shutdown over the issue of stripping Planned Parenthood of its government funding,” he wrote. “Many members said after his resignation announcement that the trade off seemed clear: Boehner would now join with Democrats to pass the budget over conservative objections, then leave the House.”

This report contains material from Reuters.

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