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Heads of Mo. Planned Parenthood Affiliate, Pathology Lab Could Face Penalties for Declining Subpoena

January 7, 2016 — The heads of a St. Louis Planned Parenthood clinic and pathology laboratory both could face penalties for refusing to comply with a subpoena issued by Missouri lawmakers, St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports (Stuckey, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1/4).

Background

Conservative lawmakers in Missouri established a Senate committee to investigate abortion practices in the state after the videos targeting Planned Parenthood were released. The committee subpoenaed abortion-related records from Planned Parenthood.

In response, Planned Parenthood in a letter to state Senate president pro tem Ron Richard (R) said providing documentation for any incidents in which an ambulance was called would violate federal law on patient privacy. Planned Parenthood also questioned the state Senate's authority to issue subpoenas on private organizations. In addition, the organization noted there is an "increased concern over the sensitivity of abortion-related records," especially after a recent fatal shooting incident at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado.

Mary Kogut, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, previously stated that Planned Parenthood's clinic in St. Louis, theonly Planned Parenthood facility in the state that provides abortion care, does not donate fetal tissue. She also cited a review by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster (D) thatfound the organization did not commit any wrongdoing, noting that Planned Parenthood "believe[s] the issue has been resolved" (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/14/15).

In November, Kogut and James Miller -- owner of Pathology Services, which contracts with the St. Louis clinic -- were issued subpoenas for documents and witnesses to testify before the investigative committee. Neither Kogut nor Miller complied with the subpoena. According to the Post-Dispatch, Miller a month earlier had testified before a state House committee investigating the same matter.

Investigative Committee Recommends Contempt Proceedings

The committee in its year-end report advised the state Senate to "initiate contempt proceedings" because Kogut and Miller did not comply with the subpoena. To initiate contempt proceedings, a state senator has to file a resolution outlining the issue, which must then be approved by the full state Senate. If the state Senate approves the resolution, Kogut and Miller could receive a $300 fine, be sentenced for up to 10 days in jail or face both penalties. The committee also recommended that the Senate continue its probe of Planned Parenthood throughout the current legislative session, which began Jan 6.

Committee Chair Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R) and six other Republican committee members signed off on the report, while state Sens. Maria Chappelle-Nadal (D) and Jill Schupp (D) did not.

Schupp said, "This committee, despite multiple hearings, subpoenas, and sunshine requests, has produced nothing to suggest Planned Parenthood has broken any laws or engaged in unethical practices." She added, "Sadly, these facts, while inconvenient, haven't stopped the chairman from using his committee for political gain. He's not letting the truth get in the way of a good story" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1/4).