ST. LOUIS — Several critics have called the Missouri attorney general's new report on Planned Parenthood in St. Louis incomplete, saying it raises questions about how state law holds the abortion provider accountable for its handling of human remains from abortions.
Attorney General Chris Koster said the organization is complying with Missouri law in how it disposes of human tissue from abortions.
As part of the review, Koster's office interviewed representatives from Planned Parenthood and Pathology Services Inc., a third-party lab that examines human tissue from abortions at Planned Parenthood.
Koster's office also obtained documents for a representative 30-day period tracing the pathology lab's process for disposing of the remains. Records show a relationship with MedAssure, a medical waste management company and its treatment location in Indianapolis and transfer facility in Boonville.
"The evidence reviewed by my investigators supports Planned Parenthood's representation that fetal tissue is handled in accordance with Missouri law," Koster said in a statement Sept. 28. "We have discovered no evidence whatsoever to suggest that Planned Parenthood's St. Louis facility is selling fetal tissue."
Missouri is one of at least 11 states that have launched investigations into Planned Parenthood's practices in their respective states since the release of a series of videos, filmed undercover, by the Center for Medical Progress, based in Irvine, California.
The videos show physicians and others associated with the organization describing the harvesting of fetal tissue and body parts during abortions at their clinics. Also discussed are what researchers are charged for the tissue and parts.
Top Planned Parenthood officials dispute what the videos show, saying they have been edited to manipulate the interviews and any mention of money for tissue and body parts is related to customary handling fees charged the researchers.
Besides Missouri, the other states conducting investigations are Florida, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Kansas, Arizona, Indiana, Ohio, Georgia, Texas and Louisiana, and members of Congress have launched an investigation as well.
The videos have prompted calls for ending state and federal funding of Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider. A report released last March by the Government Accountability Office found it received at least $1.5 billion in state and federal funding in a three-year span, from 2010 to 2012.
Planned Parenthood also supplies birth control to millions of women across the country, many who otherwise couldn't afford it. Its clinics also provide limited testing for sexually transmitted diseases and cervical cancer screenings.
In Missouri, Sen. Kurt Schaefer, who is leading the state Senate's investigation of Planned Parenthood's practices, was among those who criticized Koster's report, noting that it does not provide verifiable accounting of whether all remains are sent from Planned Parenthood to the pathology lab. The Senate Interim Committee on the Sanctity of Life is expected to submit a report of its findings to the General Assembly by Dec. 1.
Koster's investigation "appears to be an incomplete review of documents that fails to fully and completely address the questions and concerns of the General Assembly and many other Missouri citizens as they relate to Planned Parenthood," Schaefer stated, adding that the Senate committee's probe will continue "until sufficient answers are received."
Missouri law only requires abortion clinics to send a "representative sample" for pathological examination. The operations director at Pathology Services Inc. previously told the St. Louis Review, the archdiocesan newspaper, she believes the lab receives all tissue from each abortion, but the lab has no way of accounting for this.
"We have always followed the highest medical and ethical standards and comply with all laws," Mary Kogut, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said in a statement. "We are pleased, but not surprised that this thorough investigation by the attorney general found our actions fully compliant with the law. This report stands and it is time for Missouri's lawmakers to now focus on increasing access to high quality health care, including birth control, lifesaving cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment, well-woman exams, infertility and family planning."
Even if there is no evidence that Planned Parenthood is selling body parts from aborted babies, stronger legislation needs to be proposed to make sure the transfer of aborted body parts for research doesn't happen in Missouri, Schaefer said.
The sanctity of life committee was expected to reconvene in mid-October. Schaefer said he was in the process of obtaining subpoenas and planned to question officials from Pathology Services Inc. and Planned Parenthood.
Mike Hoey, executive director of the Missouri Catholic Conference, also shared his concern that Koster's report is incomplete, adding that it provides a view of the abortion industry's assembly line.
"The bottom line is it's all about the abortion of the unborn child being transported to the pathology lab and then ultimately the incinerator," he said. "It's a cruel, inhumane process."
Koster's report provides details of the 317 abortions performed at Planned Parenthood in St. Louis in June. Of them, 38 -- roughly 10 percent -- were second-trimester abortions. Deacon Sam Lee, a pro-life lobbyist with Campaign Life Missouri, said each one of those abortions has a story behind it. And the law does not provide an opportunity for parents to reclaim their child's remains for a proper burial.
"The report indicates that all 317 ended up in an incinerator in Indianapolis," said Lee. "That's sad. We should have greater respect for the remains of those who have died, regardless of the circumstances of how they have died."
"What saddens me the most is these are 317 human beings and not merely line items on a report," said Karen Nolkemper, executive director of the St. Louis Archdiocese's Respect Life Apostolate. "The disturbing lack of respect for humanity is appalling."