Responses to a scandal involving the national Planned Parenthood organization are to be expected in states where politicians are anxious to burnish their anti-abortion credentials — even if the scandal was contrived through a legally and ethically questionable sting operation involving secretly taped video.
And so in Missouri, Sen. Kurt Schaefer, a GOP candidate for state attorney general in 2016, has eagerly assumed the mantle of “lead investigator” of a Senate probe into whether the state’s Planned Parenthood clinics sell fetal tissue for medical research purposes.
The current attorney general, Democrat Chris Koster, announced he would investigate whether the clinics have violated any state laws, including one that bans transactions of “valuable consideration” for aborted fetal tissue.
In Kansas, GOP Gov. Sam Brownback has called for an investigation to determine if a similar ban is being violated.
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Planned Parenthood officials in Missouri and Kansas have said no clinic in either state participates in voluntary fetal tissue donation programs.
The hastily called investigations should not be allowed to morph into fishing expeditions or to violate patient privacy. We’ve seen that before, when then-Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline used his office to crusade against abortion clinics.
It is troubling that already Schaefer has said he would investigate the resumption of abortion services at Columbia’s Planned Parenthood clinic after they were discontinued three years ago.
As the nation’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood will always be a target. But apart from the bad optics of a doctor discussing tissue donations in an overly casual manner, none of three videos released so far have indicated Planned Parenthood has profited from the transfer of fetal issue or broken any laws.
Its clinics, meanwhile, help women — and men, in some cases — with health screenings that save thousands of lives each year and contraceptive assistance that prevents millions of unwanted pregnancies.
It is perhaps unrealistic to expect that zealous politicians will look at the big picture of Planned Parenthood, but they should.