Republican leaders in Congress launched an investigation of Planned Parenthood on Wednesday, after a video was released online that suggested the organization sold organs of aborted fetuses, reported Reuters. The organization has said the implications in the video are false.
The 8-minute, secretly recorded video was released Tuesday by a California-based anti-abortion group called the Center for Medical Progress. The video shows Dr. Deborah Nucatola, senior director of medical services at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, discussing harvesting body parts from aborted fetuses with actors posing as buyers from a biological company. While the Center for Medical Progress cited the video as evidence that Planned Parenthood was involved with illegal fetus sales and illegal abortions, the reproductive health group denied the accusations. Planned Parenthood said that neither the organization nor patients profit from tissue sales.
Republican leaders from the House Energy and Commerce Committee said Wednesday it planned to probe the organization. "House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders today began an investigation following the release of a video revealing the Planned Parenthood Senior Director of Medical Services discussing the sale of fetal body parts," the committee said in a statement. "The sale of fetal body parts for profit is illegal. This video is abhorrent and rips at the heart. The committee will get to the bottom of this appalling situation.”
“This video is abhorrent and rips at the heart. The cmte will get to the bottom of this appalling situation" #PlannedParenthood
— Energy and Commerce (@HouseCommerce) July 15, 2015
House Speaker John Boehner said he asked the proper congressional committees to look into "the grisly practices embraced by Planned Parenthood," according to Reuters.
"When an organization monetizes an unborn child – and with the cavalier attitude portrayed in this horrific video – we must all act," he said in a statement. Many viewers of the video were shocked by the casual tone with which Nucatola spoke about obtaining specific body parts and sections of tissue.
"I’d say a lot of people want liver," she said in the video, via the Washington Post. "And for that reason, most providers will do this case under ultrasound guidance so they’ll know where they’re putting their forceps."
Republican governors in Louisiana and Texas have called for investigations as well, along with a number of Republican presidential candidates. “There is no place for taxpayer funding of organizations that profit from taking away innocent life, much less profiting off the bodies of the lives they have stolen,” said Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a GOP candidate, in a statement. "Congress should immediately begin an investigation of Planned Parenthood's activities regarding the sale and transfer of aborted body parts, including who is obtaining them and what they are being used for."
Congress should investigate and defund Planned Parenthood: https://t.co/VTwyWyqUOv
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 14, 2015
Planned Parenthood has said it followed the correct legal and ethical guidelines that allow women to donate fetal tissue for scientific research for no financial gain to either the person or organization.
“A well-funded group established for the purpose of damaging Planned Parenthood’s mission and services has promoted a heavily edited, secretly recorded videotape that falsely portrays Planned Parenthood’s participation in tissue donation programs that support lifesaving scientific research," said spokesman Eric Ferrero in a statement. "Similar false accusations have been put forth by opponents of abortion services for decades. These groups have been widely discredited, and their claims fall apart on closer examination, just as they do in this case.”
Reuters reported that fetal tissue was in high demand for medical research in the 1990s, but since then, that supply has been largely replaced by cells from embryos, adult stem cells and other sources. Selling human fetal tissue across state lines can result in fines up to $500,000 and a prison sentence of up to 10 years under federal law, but the law allows for "reasonable payments" for costs like transportation and storage. When the video was released, Planned Parenthood responded that it was standard medical practice for costs like transportation to be reimbursed in some cases.