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Mo. Senate committee wants contempt proceedings for heads of St. Louis Planned Parenthood, pathology lab

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Planned Parenthood-Missouri

Andrew Ward (left) and Bill Pauls discuss their positions on abortion during a rally across the street from the Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia, Mo., in July 2015. (Don Shrubshell/Columbia Daily Tribune via AP)

JEFFERSON CITY • The woman in charge of the St. Louis Planned Parenthood -- and the owner of the pathology lab the facility contracts with -- could face jail time and a fine for failing to comply with a Missouri Senate subpoena.

Mary Kogut, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, and James Miller, owner of Brentwood-based Pathology Services, Inc., were issued subpoenas in November for documents and witnesses to appear before a Missouri Senate committee investigating the abortion and health care provider.

Neither appeared before the Senate committee or sent the documents requested, even though Miller testified a month prior in front of a House committee investigating the same matter.

Lawmakers began investigating Planned Parenthood this summer after controversial videos were released alleging the abortion and health care provider sold fetal body parts. Planned Parenthood has vehemently denied these allegations and Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat running for governor this year, found no evidence of wrongdoing in Missouri.

Planned Parenthood has questioned the validity of both the Senate committee and its subpoena power, as well as voiced concern that the documents requested would violate patient confidentiality laws.

Because they did not comply with the subpoena, Republican senators on the committee recommended in its year-end report that the Senate "initiate contempt proceedings."

To do this, a senator must file a resolution outlining the nature of the contempt, which would have to be approved by the full senate. If approved, Kogut and Miller could face up to 10 days in jail or a $300 fine -- or both.

Committee members also recommend the Senate continue investigating Planned Parenthood during the 4-1/2 month-long session that begins Wednesday.

"Many questions remain unanswered" because the committee didn't hear from Miller or the abortion and health care provider, the report stated

Democratic Sens. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, from University City, and Jill Schupp, from Creve Coeur, did not sign off on the report. Committee Chairman Sen. Kurt Schaefer, a Republican from Columbia running for attorney general this year, and the six other Republicans on the committee did.

“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,” Schupp said in a news release.  “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.” 

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Alex Stuckey is a statehouse reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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