Missouri AG: No evidence St. Louis clinic sells fetal tissue

AP News
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Posted: Sep 28, 2015 3:53 PM

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — An investigation found "no evidence whatsoever" that Missouri's only surgical abortion facility sells fetal remains, Attorney General Chris Koster said Monday, marking the latest response to a heated national debate over Planned Parenthood's handling of fetal tissue.

The Democrat said interviews and documentation from his office's investigation show that tissue from the more than 300 surgical abortions performed at the St. Louis Planned Parenthood in June was properly incinerated. The nearly 50-page report details contracts that Koster said track fetal tissue from the abortion clinic to a pathology lab and then to an incinerator.

"We have discovered no evidence whatsoever to suggest that Planned Parenthood's St. Louis facility is selling fetal tissue," Koster said in a statement.

Several state attorneys general and health departments began reviewing state practices following the release of undercover videos in July by anti-abortion activists. The videos show officials from the national organization discussing the transfer of tissue for medical research, which spurred criticism primarily by Republicans.

Koster's findings back up repeated assertions from the St. Louis clinic — the only center licensed to perform surgical abortions in Missouri — that it doesn't participate in a program to donate fetal remains.

Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri President and CEO Mary Kogut said the organization is "pleased, but not surprised" with the report's conclusion.

Federal law prohibits abortion providers from profiting from the sale of fetal tissue. It also bars providers from inducing someone to have an abortion to provide the tissue or altering the procedure in any way to harvest fetal tissue, which is used for a variety of medical research. Some states have similar laws.

Congressional committees are investigating Planned Parenthood's practices, and House members are feuding over whether to cancel federal funding of the organization in response to the videos. Some Republican governors and state lawmakers have similarly called for investigations into Planned Parenthood.

At least five other states — Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and South Dakota — also have cleared Planned Parenthood of breaking the law

In Missouri, the videos prompted three separate reviews: Koster's investigation, and separate House and Senate investigations.

Koster findings didn't appear to quell outrage by anti-abortion activists in Missouri, where the Republican-dominated Legislature enacted one of the nation's longest abortion-waiting periods last year.

Sam Lee, president of anti-abortion group Campaign Life Missouri, said "a lot of questions remain unanswered." Lee said the report only shows that the clinic completed paperwork, but doesn't independently confirm its accuracy.

"That still leaves unanswered whether all body parts are being disposed of properly," Lee said.

Legislative leaders of the two committees reviewing abortion practices in Missouri didn't immediately return comment or did not immediately comment Monday.

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