Kansas ban on profiting from fetal tissue sales in spotlight
Topeka An anti-abortion leader said Wednesday that Kansas should consider strengthening its ban on profiting from fetal tissue sales following Republican Gov. Sam Brownback's call for the state medical board to investigate Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.
Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, said the group is not sure that the 2000 state ban provides enough protection for abortion-clinic workers who want to become whistleblowers. She also said her group wants to make sure that women seeking to end their pregnancies get enough information beforehand if they're asked to make a legal donation of fetal organs or tissue.
Brownback called Tuesday for the State Board of Healing Arts to investigate whether for-profit sales of fetal tissue are occurring in Kansas after abortion opponents released two secretly recorded videos of Planned Parenthood officials outside Kansas discussing how they provide organs from abortion fetuses for research. Planned Parenthood officials have said the videos were edited to leave a false impression that the group profits.
Federal law bans the commercial sale of fetal tissue but allows not-for-profit donations if the woman having the abortion gives consent. The Kansas statute is modeled on the federal law and makes it a felony, punishable by at least nine years in prison, for a first-time violator.
Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, which operates an Overland Park clinic that performs abortions, says it has no program for fetal tissue donations. South Wind Women's Center in Wichita also said it has no program of donations.
Culp said her group wants to ensure that the state's ban is adequately enforced and, "That's not going to happen without a thorough investigation."
But Laura McQuade, president and CEO of the regional Planned Parenthood chapter, said there's no need for legislators to review the 2000 law, and the investigation sought by Brownback merely continues "a political fight" over abortion.
"It doesn't have anything to do with the health and safety of patients," she said. "This investigation is clearly unnecessary."
The state medical board's investigations are confidential until one of its litigation attorneys files a disciplinary petition against a physician's license for the board to consider. Allegations of criminal wrongdoing are pursued by the attorney general's office or local prosecutors.
Attorney General Derek Schmidt also sent a letter to the Kansas medical board Tuesday asking it to investigate, saying it is in the best position to answer the "threshold question" of whether fetal tissue has been sold in Kansas.
The state law allows payments to cover the costs of handling and transporting fetal tissue, requiring documentation if it is more than $25. It also requires anyone who transfers fetal tissue to file an annual report with the state Department of Health and Environment.
Kansas legislators enacted the law following allegations that two independent contractors for the Planned Parenthood clinic in Overland Park profited illegally from fetal tissue. An FBI investigation found that no laws were broken; Planned Parenthood terminated agreements with the contractors and was not accused itself of wrongdoing.