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Missouri House Republicans float several ideas for tightening regulations on abortion providers

Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

A Missouri House committee is putting together recommendations that could place further restrictions on abortion providers, namely Planned Parenthood.

Several Republican lawmakers began brainstorming various proposals toward the end of a public hearing Wednesday at the State Capitol.

They included random inspections of any facility that performs abortions, including hospitals.

"If they're doing surgical abortions, for termination (of pregnancies), then yeah, they should be," said Representative Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester.

Koenig co-chaired Wednesday's hearing, along with Rep. Diane Franklin, R-Camdenton.  She wants to see improved tracking of fetal tissue handled by clinics that perform abortions.

"The pathologist can be a key in that, because if they receive one of the aborted babies and there is something that should be there that's not there, we want them to be sure to flag that," Franklin said.  "Then we need someone at the Department (of Health) that is paying attention (and sees) that it is flagged, so we can go back, trace it right back, just like you'd trace a package from Amazon, 'my package has gone missing,' and be able to identify what happened."

Likely the most controversial idea came from Rep. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville.  He suggested passing legislation that would force Planned Parenthood to build a memorial to aborted fetuses.

"We have (since 1973) 56 million babies that have been lost in the abortion service and industry, (so) I think maybe requiring that Planned Parenthood set up some type of memorial, like a Vietnam Wall type (memorial)," Brattin said.  "I know that sounds crazy, but by state law (fetuses are) given human status, so should there be a human memorial attached to that human life?"

A list of recommendations is expected to be issued before the start of next year's legislative session.  

Wednesday's brainstorming session happened after Democratic House members left the committee meeting.  It was the latest in a series of hearings led by House and Senate Republicans in Missouri focused Planned Parenthood.

Earlier in the meeting, Republican and Democratic members of the House committees on children and families, and ways and means, heard testimony from several witnesses, including Dr. James Miller of Pathology Services, Inc.  His clinic receives and disposes of fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood.

Representative Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove, asked Miller if the fetal remains are given a proper burial. Miller said that they are incinerated, not buried.

Moon then asked, "Is it possible that some of those specimens have had parts removed before you've received them at your clinic?"

"I guess anything would be possible, (but) I don't think it's probable," Miller replied.

During a break in the testimony, Rep. Stacey Newman, D-Richmond Heights, told reporters that Wednesday's hearing, along with earlier ones held this summer, are politically motivated.

"I am perplexed," Newman said.  "I know that this is a witch hunt hearing, in terms of trying to find some type of legislation for the majority to file next year, which we know is a presidential election year."

Last month, Attorney General Chris Koster release a report stating that the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis is properly disposing of fetal tissue and that there is "no evidence whatsoever" that the clinic ever sold tissue.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.