July 24, 2015 — Several conservative lawmakers are targeting Planned Parenthood after an antiabortion-rights group released two videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue donation, The Hill reports (Ferris, The Hill, 7/22).
The Center for Medical Progress secretly filmed the videos by posing as buyers of fetal tissue. The videos depict Planned Parenthood staff discussing fetal tissue collection and associated costs.
Planned Parenthood stated that the videos were heavily edited and that the filmed officials did not conduct any illegal activities (Carney, "Floor Action," The Hill, 7/22). 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 (Cassella, Reuters, 7/23).
Lawmakers Target Planned Parenthood
Following the videos' release, Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) this week introduced legislation (S 1836, HR 3134) that would suspend federal funding for Planned Parenthood for one year, while the federal government conducts an investigation into the organization. According to The Hill, Planned Parenthood receives $500 million in federal funding annually, none of which is used for abortion care (Ferris, The Hill, 7/22).
Similarly, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Wednesday proposed an amendment to an unrelated transportation measure (HR 22) that would cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood (Reuters, 7/23). Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) also has pledged to propose amendments this week to the highway measure that would defund the organization.
In addition, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has ordered congressional investigations into Planned Parenthood (Ferris, The Hill, 7/22). According to Roll Call's "218," the House Judiciary Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee now are looking into the allegations (Khurshid, "218," Roll Call, 7/22). Meanwhile, 50 senators in a letter to HHS have asked the department to comply with the congressional investigations and to conduct an internal review of itself and Planned Parenthood regarding "all relevant and applicable federal statutes, regulations, and other requirements" ("Floor Action," The Hill, 7/22).
Separately, both conservative lawmakers and lawmakers who support abortion rights have called on Attorney General Loretta Lynch (D) to look into the issue. Conservative lawmakers have asked Lynch to investigate Planned Parenthood, while lawmakers who support abortion rights are requesting that Lynch and California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) investigate the legality of CMP's actions ("218," Roll Call, 7/22).
According to Reuters, Lynch said the Department of Justice is "going to review all the information and determine what steps, if any, to take at the appropriate time" (Reuters, 7/23). Meanwhile, at least eight states have called for investigations into Planned Parenthood over the videos (Sullivan/Ferris, The Hill, 7/22).
White House, Planned Parenthood Comment
White House press secretary Josh Earnest on Wednesday questioned the validity of the videos' claims. "I have read the report and I'm confident that [the president] has too, raising significant concerns about the way in which the videos were selectively edited to distort not just the words of the individuals speaking, but also the position of Planned Parenthood," he said, adding that Planned Parenthood has "made very clear that [it] subscribe[s] and implement[s] the highest ethical standards in carrying out [its] operations."
Further, Earnest noted the White House would not support potential amendments to the transportation funding bill that would defund the group.
Meanwhile, Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, discussed federal funding for the organization. She said, "The men and women who benefit from this funding often have limited health care access, and we are often their primary health care provider. They turn to Planned Parenthood for the quality, compassionate care Americans have relied on for nearly 100 years." She added, "One in five women will rely on Planned Parenthood for health care in her lifetime. This may be a political talking point for some, but for the women, men and young people we serve, it's quite literally a matter of their well-being" (Owens, National Journal, 7/22).
Defunding Efforts Stall Bill To Bolster Care for Female Veterans
In related news, efforts to defund Planned Parenthood have stalled a bipartisan measure, called the Women Veterans and Families Health Services Act (S 469), that would mandate coverage for fertility counseling and treatments for "severely wounded, ill, or injured" military servicemembers or veterans, the Washington Post's "Post Politics" reports.
According to "Post Politics," the bill was expected to advance through the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on Wednesday. However, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who authored the measure, pulled the bill after Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) proposed an amendment that was directed at prohibiting the Department of Veterans Affairs from working with Planned Parenthood (DeBonis, "Post Politics," Washington Post, 7/22).