California Attorney General Kamala Harris, a staunch Planned Parenthood supporter, said Friday she will investigate the Center for Medical Progress, the pro-life group behind two explosive undercover videos targeting the nation’s largest abortion provider.
Ms. Harris said in a letter to four House Democrats that her office will “carefully review the allegations raised in your letter to determine whether there were any violations of California law,” the Sacramento Bee reported.
The Center for Medical Progress released two videos earlier this month in which top Planned Parenthood officials discuss the costs for providing fetal-tissue donations obtained from abortions, as well as surgical procedures for ensuring that the fetal organs are best preserved.
The videos have prompted House and Senate committees and eight states to launch probes into whether Planned Parenthood is violating federal and state law on fetal-tissue donations, but Ms. Harris’s investigation is believed to be the first to target the center instead.
Ms. Harris’s support for Planned Parenthood is no secret: On Wednesday, she criticized an amendment to the federal highway bill submitted by Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, to defund Planned Parenthood, which receives roughly $500 million annually in federal grants and reimbursements.
“The notion that some in DC want to hold CA highway funding hostage in order to defund Planned Parenthood is deeply troubling,” said Ms. Harris on Twitter, as cited on the conservative website Twitchy.
In a second email, Ms. Harris said, “@PPFA serves more than 2 mil women a year, providing critical health care like cancer screenings, preventative care and birth control.”
“That this cynical attempt to block women’s access to health care is even being considered is yet another example of DC’s dysfunction,” Ms. Harris concluded.
Her investigation prompted critics on social media to accuse her of “shooting the messenger” rather than attempting to determine whether Planned Parenthood has violated California law.
“Selling baby parts? Fine. Undercover videos? Unleash the full power of the state!” said Twitchy in a Friday comment.
The center’s David Daleiden, who headed the investigation, did not return immediately a request for comment Saturday on the California investigation, but accused Planned Parenthood in a Wednesday statement of “trying to use the power of their political cronies to shut down free speech.”
Mr. Daleiden said previously that the center “follows all applicable laws in the course of our investigative journalism work.”
In a letter Tuesday, the four House Democrats asked Ms. Harris to investigate whether the center violated California law by creating a false company, Biomax Procurement Services, and recording the Planned Parenthood officials without their knowledge.
“This office will also review any materials filed by the Center for Medical Progress with the Attorney General’s Registry of Charitable Trusts to determine whether the organization violated laws including, but not limited to, our registration and reporting requirements,” Ms. Harris said in the letter, as reported by the Bee.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a response to a question at a press conference Wednesday that she will review the videos, according to the Hill.
“I’m aware of those matters generally from the media, and from some inquiries that have been made to the Department of Justice, and again at this point we’re going to review all the information and determine what steps, if any, to take at the appropriate time,” Ms. Lynch said.
The Justice Department has received requests for investigations in at least two letters from members of Congress.
The four Democrats—Reps. Jan Schakowsky, Zoe Lofgren, Jerrold Nadler and Yvette Clarke—directed their Tuesday letter calling for an investigation into the center to both Ms. Harris and Ms. Lynch.
On Wednesday, 11 Senate Republicans led by Utah Sen. Mike Lee asked Justice Department to look into the allegations raised by the videos.
Planned Parenthood officials have denied any wrongdoing, saying that they receive only reimbursement costs for providing fetal tissue for medical research. The organization has also been accused of altering its abortion techniques to ensure intact organs in violation of federal law.
Under federal law, the woman donating the fetal tissue must sign a statement declaring that “no alteration of the timing, method, or procedures used to terminate the pregnancy was made solely for the purposes of obtaining the tissue.”
In the first video, Dr. Deborah Nucatola explains how to “crush” the fetus in order to preserve valuable organs. In the second video, Dr. Mary Gatter suggests that a Planned Parenthood surgeon may be able to use an alternative procedure to ensure an intact fetus.
“I wouldn’t object to asking Ian, who’s our surgeon who does the cases, to use an IPAS [manual vacuum aspirator] at that gestational age in order to increase the odds that he’s going to get an intact specimen,” says Dr. Gatter in the undercover video.
Both doctors are also high-ranking officials at Planned Parenthood.
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