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The Missouri Planned Parenthood Witch Hunt

 By Rep. Stacey Newman 

Originally Posted on 8.25.15 Huffington Post

Although this is my birthday week when I should be indulging in relaxation and excess chocolate, I can't stop thinking about the horrendous seven-hour hearing to "investigate" Planned Parenthood this past week in the Missouri Capitol. But mostly, I can't stop thinking about women who would be hurt if the Missouri GOP have their way.

Our legislature during the interim has zero interest in addressing our exploding gun violence, or kids back to school in woefully inadequate schools, or even how to make our male legislators stop sexually harassing women in the Capitol, particularly young interns.

What is deemed most urgent by the Missouri GOP leadership is jumping on the national Crazy Toons bandwagon, joining other red states in launching their own investigation/witch hunt.

Never mind that the undercover sting videos of Planned Parenthood, which sparked these investigations, continue to be proven bogus.

Never mind that officials in Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts and South Dakota have spent thousands of state dollars and have concluded there was no evidence of any wrongdoing in their states by Planned Parenthood. Never mind that the Center for Medical Progress, responsible for the videos, is widely known as an anti-abortion group on a mission to annihilate Planned Parenthood.

Never mind that there are no Missouri lawmakers who are obstetricians or, heaven forbid, real gynecologists.

And certainly never mind these facts:

Fact #1 -- Per Missouri's constitution amended by voters in 2006, embryonic stem cell research is legal.

Fact #2 -- Planned Parenthood in Missouri along with numerous affiliates throughout the country, do NOT offer patients the option to donate fetal tissue.

Fact #3 -- Fetal tissue cell research has produced life-saving medical treatments and vaccines many of us count on.

Fact #4 -- Only three percent of Planned Parenthood health services, even in Missouri, involve abortion.

Fact #5 -- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have found no violations of fetal tissue laws after the deceptively-edited videos.

The Missouri House hearing was a disaster. No agenda was given to us committee members except for a jumble of abortion statute links. The hearing began with the joint chairs asking what we all wanted to address. It was then that I wanted to stand up and scream.

The first hour and a half consisted of a summary reading of the bogus video transcript, followed by Children and Families Chair Rep. Diane Franklin citing a incredibly long list of abortion statutes. It had to have been hair pulling agonizing for anyone following along online on the House's live video stream. GOP Rep. Sue Allen asked that the department directors who would be testifying later if they could be "sworn in" so "we could know they were telling the truth." Never mind that we legislators never take that oath. Then we broke early for a two and half hour lunch.

So, why were taxpayers funding this circus? Why were we holding a third interim hearing on Planned Parenthood? Just for our per diem and mileage check for the day?

Then my "aha" moment. Our session beginning in January coincides with the 2016 presidential election when we have contested Missouri gubernatorial and attorney general races (many of those candidates currently serve in the legislature). They must find a "women's" wedge issue to motivate their Tea Party base. Duh.

At 2 p.m. the action resumed. Various state department directors answered questions ranging from surgical center licensing to federal Medicaid Planned Parenthood reimbursements to what happens to aborted fetal tissue after being delivered to private pathology labs.

Questions asked by the committee ranged from, "How do we know anyone is doing their job?" to "How to we know tissue is not being sold?" and to my absolute favorite, "How do we know if pathology labs aren't selling baby body parts?"

Mentioning "baby body parts" became a favorite sport or an at-home drinking game as my conservative colleagues tried to outdo each other in their comments.

Almost every question asked of the directors was found either in the links provided to us or directly online. I know this because I easily found the answers on my laptop during the hearing.

Finally, late in the day, after the chairs tried hard to deny his testimony but I insisted, Dr. Ed Weisbart, who has actually treated pregnant women and delivered babies, spoke. His patience for sitting quietly up to this point should be commended.

He blasted the committee: "That video ... was clearly produced by an organization which was created to produce videos like that. It was done with false identifications, it was based on lies and badly edited to create a message that would then justify having hearings of this nature, and you guys are taking advantage of the material they gave you. There is no evidence that any of those things is going on... This could clearly be defined as a witch hunt or a fishing expedition."

As you can imagine, the committee did not like an actual physician with medical expertise testifying and were fairly hostile to him. Certainly, not a physician who cares about reproductive healthcare that all women, of every zip code, need and deserve.

To conclude the day, the chairs also allowed two local abortion clinic protestors to testify. Really.

The result of the all day hearing? Before adjourning, the chairs called for yet one more hearing, making a total of four Missouri taxpayer funded Planned Parenthood witch hunts this summer. Stay tuned -- maybe there will be more.

This is the Missouri legislature, elected by few voters but making big decisions, spending your tax dollars and treating women like... well, crap.

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