TOPEKA Kansas' medical board is taking no action against a Planned Parenthood clinic after completing an investigation into whether illegal sales of fetal tissue are occurring after abortions, a board document shows.
"We absolutely feel vindicated by this," Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said Thursday.
A State Board of Healing Arts disciplinary attorney sent a letter to Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri last week saying the board's disciplinary staff had investigated the organization's clinic in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park, Kansas. The Associated Press on Thursday obtained a copy of the letter, which said a board disciplinary panel reviewed material gathered during the investigation.
"After careful review of the investigative materials, the Panel determined no further action would be taken at this time; however the materials will be kept on file and reviewed again in the event future issues arise," disciplinary attorney Dan Riley wrote.
Republican Gov. Sam Brownback last year called on the board to investigate whether commercial sales of fetal tissue were occurring in Kansas following an anti-abortion group's release of secretly recorded video of Planned Parenthood officials in other states talking about the handling of fetal tissue.
State Sen. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat and abortion rights supporter, said, "I'm glad they've exonerated Planned Parenthood, and I hope people pay attention."
But anti-abortion legislators were not convinced that the Planned Parenthood clinic was cleared of wrongdoing.
"I think the Board of Healing Arts should take another look," said state Sen. Jake LaTurner, a Pittsburg Republican.
Brownback announced in his annual State of the State address Tuesday that he'd ordered the state health department's secretary to ensure that Planned Parenthood receives no funds from the state's Medicaid program for services it provides. The governor cited "Planned Parenthood's trafficking of baby body parts."
Planned Parenthood says it receives about $61,000 a year in Medicaid funds to reimburse it for health exams, cancer screenings and birth-control services. Medicaid provides health coverage for the poor and disabled.
Planned Parenthood officials nationally have said the videos were misleadingly edited as part of a smear campaign. The regional affiliate — and other abortion providers in Kansas — have said they don't even have programs that allow legal donations of fetal tissue.
The medical board's members are appointed by the governor, and the letter from its attorney was dated Jan. 7, five days before Brownback gave his address. McQuade did not rule out a lawsuit over the governor's public comments.
McQuade also said two inspections of the Overland Park clinic by the state Department of Health and Environment within the past nine months showed no problems. The second one was completed last week, she said.
"The governor made knowingly false statements about Planned Parenthood and its practices," McQuade said. "You can't make false allegations without there being repercussions."
Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said in an emailed statement that Planned Parenthood's national organization has admitted it trafficked in fetal tissue for payments. Planned Parenthood has said a few clinics in two states used to accept legally allowed reimbursements for the costs of providing tissue donated by abortion patients.
"Kansas is a pro-life state and we will continue to stand up for the most vulnerable among us," Hawley said. "We will review the findings of the Board of Healing Arts."
The Kansas law against commercial fetal tissue sales is modeled after an older federal ban, and a violation is a felony punishable by at least nine years in prison for a first-time offender. The statute allows payments to cover the costs of handling and transporting donated fetal tissue, requiring documentation if it is more than $25.
Legislators enacted the law in 2000 amid allegations that two independent contractors for Planned Parenthood's clinic in Overland Park profited illegally from fetal tissue sales, though the clinic itself wasn't accused of wrongdoing. The FBI found that no laws were broken.
Abortion opponents raised the issue again in 2008 in successfully petitioning a local grand jury investigation of the clinic. There was no indictment.
Mary Kay Culp, executive director of the anti-abortion group Kansans for Life, said it was fair to have the board's staff investigate again.
"If states don't keep watch on this there's really no way to find out," Culp said. "It's not like they are innocent as the driven snow."