August 21, 2015 — Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) on Thursday began probing whether the antiabortion-rights Center for Medical Progress violated any state or federal laws in its video campaign against Planned Parenthood, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Cummings is a ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (Armour, Wall Street Journal, 8/20).
CMP's video series, which targets Planned Parenthood, depicts Planned Parenthood staff discussing fetal tissue donation. CMP secretly filmed the videos by meeting with Planned Parenthood staff while posing as buyers of fetal tissue.
Planned Parenthood has stated that the videos were heavily edited and that the filmed officials did not conduct any illegal activities. The organization said it does not profit from fetal tissue donations and only receives reimbursement for costs associated with such donations, which is legal. Meanwhile, supporters of Planned Parenthood said the videos are part of a decades-long campaign against the organization (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/18).
CMP Investigation Details
On Thursday, Cummings sent a letter to CMP to determine whether the group asked for charitable donations while posing as a not-for-profit and whether the group recorded Planned Parenthood staff without their consent (Wall Street Journal, 8/20).
Cummings said such information would be necessary were Congress to investigate Planned Parenthood (Ferris, The Hill, 8/20). According to the Journal, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has sent letters to Planned Parenthood and HHS following the videos' release.
Cummings noted that CMP's "disturbing actions raise questions about whether [CMP] has broken federal or state laws and whether some members of Congress may have been aware of these potentially illegal activities before they were made public earlier this year." The letter also states that CMP appears to have created a fake company to film the videos and that CMP employees falsely posed as sales representatives. Further, the letter notes that while CMP has been asking for charitable donations since 2013 as a biomedicine and bioengineering not-for-profit, it currently holds itself out as an organization of citizen journalists.
According to the Journal, Cummings' letter represents the latest action in a "growing offensive from state and congressional [lawmakers] in their support of Planned Parenthood." CMP is also under investigation for potential violations of the law in Texas and in California. In addition, some members of Congress have asked the Department of Justice to investigate whether CMP violated laws, such as recording without consent (Wall Street Journal, 8/20). Meanwhile, states that have completed investigations into Planned Parenthood have not found any wrongdoing (The Hill, 8/20).