Planned Parenthood CEO summoned over Senate subpoena
Missouri lawmakers in a rare move on Thursday voted to summon the CEO of a regional Planned Parenthood to explain why she should not be held in contempt of the state Senate for defying a subpoena that demanded documents on how the organization handles fetal remains.
Senators voted 24-8 to order Mary Kogut, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, to appear in the chamber at 2 p.m. April 25 to justify why she has not complied with the November subpoena -- and why she should not face punishment.
The Senate also approved a measure that summons Dr. James Miller, owner of the suburban St. Louis Pathology Services Inc. that reviews tissue from Planned Parenthood, for the same time and date.
The Missouri Constitution allows lawmakers to punish those held in contempt with a fine and 10 days in jail, though records show that hasn't happened in more than a century. If Kogut or Miller do not appear, the Senate's sergeant-at-arms is authorized to "issue the necessary process" to bring them to the chamber, according to the contempt resolutions, which do not include details on what the process would involve.
A Missouri Senate committee began investigating Planned Parenthood last summer after undercover videos alleged the nation's largest abortion provider illegally sold fetal tissue to make a profit. A Texas grand jury has indicted two activists involved with making the videos.
Planned Parenthood has denied the allegations in the videos -- which reference the organization's St. Louis clinic, the state's only abortion provider -- and disputed the legitimacy of the Legislature's investigations, saying Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has already cleared the organization of wrongdoing.
Sen. Kurt Schaefer, chairman of the Senate committee investigating the group and a Republican candidate for attorney general, has said lawmakers cannot be sure Planned Parenthood has not broken the law without the records the Senate subpoenaed. Those documents include all of Planned Parenthood's policies and written communication on disposing fetal tissue, as well as information on ambulance visits and all documents mentioning two doctors featured in the undercover videos.
Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, a Republican from Joplin, has said it's important to show there are consequences to defying a legislative subpoena.
Sen. Jason Holsman, a Kansas City Democrat, said he recognizes the chamber's power to subpoena, but that does not mean every subpoena is justified. The Senate's investigation is "political theater" based on a "false premise," he said, because the undercover videos were misleadingly edited and other investigations have already exonerated Planned Parenthood.
Chuck Hatfield, an attorney representing Planned Parenthood, has said the organization is open to releasing some of the records lawmakers subpoenaed. But he said many of the documents have nothing to do with the Senate's investigation, and he wants lawmakers to address those objections before turning over any records.
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