Missouri was one of a dozen states that investigated Planned Parenthood's fetal-tissue donations, and like the other states, Missouri's attorney general's office found no evidence of wrongdoing. The Republican-led state legislature, unsatisfied, launched an investigation of its own.
And as we discussed last week, it's a doozy of a probe. While the local Planned Parenthood affiliate has said it's prepared to share documents about the handling of fetal tissue with lawmakers, GOP state senators have also subpoenaed consent forms, which the health group says includes private patient information.
Because the organization has only been willing to comply with part of the legislature's subpoena, Missouri Republicans began a contempt process that could, in theory, put a regional Planned Parenthood official in jail. That process was supposed to begin yesterday, but the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that no vote has been scheduled and Planned Parenthood "is attempting to negotiate" a compromise solution.
While that dispute moves forward, Missouri Republicans are also taking a keen interest in the issue that helped sparked the broader controversy in the first place. The state Associated Press reported yesterday:
The Missouri House is advancing legislation to ban donation of fetal tissue from abortions. House members in a voice vote Tuesday gave the legislation initial approval.... It needs a second vote in the House to move to the Senate.
I'm a little surprised this hasn't happened more.
Keep in mind, a year ago at this time, there was no real controversy surrounding fetal-tissue research and the issue simply wasn't on the political world's radar. The potentially life-saving science enjoyed broad and bipartisan support, and when it was authorized by Congress decades ago, the vote in the Senate was 93 to 4.
In the years since, there’s been no organized effort by GOP officials -- or anyone else, for that matter -- to change the law or curtail the medical research.
But after controversial videos reminded Republicans that Planned Parenthood donates fetal tissue to scientists, the politics changed. Now, presidential candidates oppose both abortion and fetal-tissue research; Wisconsin proposed ban on the science; and now Missouri is considering blocking fetal-tissue donations.
This need not be seen as an abortion debate, per se. The question is whether to discard fetal tissue after a terminated pregnancy or whether to use those tissues for potentially life-saving research. Many Missouri Republicans appear to have made their choice.
* 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.