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Schaefer ties death threat to his leadership role against Planned Parenthood

Kurt Schaefer 2014 mo senator gop dist 19 columbia
Official photo

Missouri state Sen. Kurt Schaefer, a Republican candidate for attorney general, suspects thata disparaging story in Middle East-based Al Jazeera may be tied to a death threat that has prompted him to temporarily close his office in the state Capitol.

Schaefer, R-Columbia, said in an interview Tuesday night that the  article by Al Jazeera's U.S. affiliate – which appeared online last week-- contained “inflammatory stuff” as part of its critical coverage into his recent probes of ties between the University of Missouri and Planned Parenthood.

Schaefer then pointed to anti-Christian comments made by the caller who delivered the death threat in a telephone call last weekend to the general Senate phone line.

He called the call “a rant against Christians.”

“I assume it’s related to the Planned Parenthood stuff,’’ Schaefer said, although noting that the caller did not mention the private organization.

In any case, Schaefer said he would keep his Capitol office closed until the state Highway Patrol completes its investigation into the call. “We’ve given it to law enforcement and we’re waiting to hear from them,’’ the senator said.

Patrol Capt. John Hotz said the investigation is still underway.

Schaefer said he has received threats before. But this call was different, he added, calling it “more graphic, more violent, more disturbing.”

Leading probe of Planned Parenthood

Schaefer has headed a legislative panel this summer that has been investigating the activities of Missouri’s Planned Parenthood clinics. The probe, still underway, is prompted by disparaging videos produced by an anti-abortion group that asserted some Planned Parenthood operations in other states were improperly selling fetal body parts obtained from abortions.  One of the videos contended that there may be a St. Louis connection.

Local and national Planned Parenthood officials have denied any wrongdoing, and contend the videos were inaccurate and heavily edited.  Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster says his office’s investigation uncovered no improprieties.

Schaefer also has targeted the University of Missouri because of its initial role in granting hospital privileges to a physician who is performing drug-induced abortions at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia, Mo., and the use of embryonic stem cells in two medical research projects at the university.

The Al Jazeera article was prompted by Schaefer’s more recent criticisms of a University of Missouri doctoral student’s study into the effects of Missouri’s fairly new 72-hour waiting period for abortions. The article featured an interview with the student.

Other national news outlets have covered the controversy as well.

Schaefer said Tuesday that he had just received documents from the university about the student’s work.  Schaefer contends the study is aimed at getting a pro-abortion result – which the student denies.

Schaefer also contends that the study may be breaking state law, which bars any spending of state money on abortion or related activities. The student has said she’s paying all of her study’s expenses.

Schaefer called the Al Jazeera article about the student “irresponsible’’ and noted that he was not interviewed. However, the article states that the senator "did not respond to Al Jazeera's multiple interview requests."

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.