On Thursday, a Republican-led state Senate committee in Missouri voted to hold Mary Kogut, a regional Planned Parenthood official, in contempt of the state Senate for not cooperating with a subpoena related to their investigation. If the full chamber agrees to hold her in contempt of the Senate, she could serve 10 days in jail and/or pay a fine of $300. The committee also voted to hold the owner of a pathology lab that reviews fetal tissue in contempt. The sticking point between the two sides is whether St. Louis's Planned Parenthood, the only abortion provider in the state, will provide six years' worth of documents about how it handles and disposes of its fetal tissue.
Last year, after the controversy erupted over Planned Parenthood and fetal tissue, 12 states launched official investigations into the health care organization's work. Each state reached the exact same conclusion: the group did not illegally sell tissue and the allegations were wrong.
One of the 12 states was Missouri, and when the state attorney general's office released the findings, many in the state assumed the culture war would have to simply move on to the next fight. This week, however, some Missouri Republicans are actually threatening a Planned Parenthood official with possible jail time. The Washington Post reported:
In theory, this shouldn't be particularly difficult. Officials with the local Planned Parenthood affiliate have said they're prepared to share the relevant documents about how fetal tissue was handled. State GOP lawmakers, however, have said that's not enough --they're also insisting on seeing abortion consent forms.
The health care organization has said that would violate patient privacy, but Republicans are demanding the materials anyway -- to the point that they're willing to possibly put a regional Planned Parenthood official in jail for contempt for failing to turn over private medical documents.
The Guardian report added an additional wrinkle: according to Planned Parenthood, it can't honor the state subpoena because federal privacy laws prohibit the group from releasing the materials the GOP wants to see.
At least for now, Republican state lawmakers in Missouri are moving forward anyway, and on Tuesday, the state Senate is scheduled to begin debate on the contempt charge. According to the Associated Press, it will be the first time in 113 years that Missouri lawmakers even vote on such a measure.
* Disclosure: My wife works for Planned Parenthood, but she played no role in this piece, and her work is unrelated to both the Missouri affiliate and fetal tissue.