Politics

‘Sorry’ Doesn’t Assuage Lawmakers

Planned Parenthood probes move forward on Hill

Despite a half-hearted apology from the president of Planned Parenthood, congressional leaders are ratcheting up investigations into a controversial video implying the organization traffics in the organs of aborted fetuses.

The video burst into the headlines this week, showing a senior director of the abortion group detailing a price list for fetal body parts to a pair of pro-life activists posing as buyers from a biotech firm. She spelled out the costs for livers and hearts while munching salad and sipping wine.

“Our top priority is the compassionate care that we provide. In the video, one of our staff members speaks in a way that does not reflect that compassion. This is unacceptable, and I personally apologize for the staff member’s tone and statements,” president Cecile Richards said in a video. “As always, if there is any aspect of our work that can be strengthened, we want to know about it, and we take swift action to address it.”

Related: Planned Parenthood Hawks Organs?

That qualified apology has done little to stem the fury of lawmakers.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, plans to press ahead with hearings into whether the agency is violating federal laws that prohibit the sale of human organs and limit the use of fetal tissue for research. Grassley also wants his panel to hear from Attorney General Loretta Lynch about whether the Justice Department is ensuring compliance with the 2003 law that banned partial birth abortion.

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Lynch has so far stayed mum on the issue.

Meanwhile in the House, the Energy and Commerce Committee and Judiciary Committee have also announced investigations.

Richards said Planned Parenthood does not profit from the harvesting of fetal organs and never collects them for research purposes without the consent of the woman having the abortion. She also said that such organs, properly collected, contribute to “life-saving” research.

A top Grassley aide on Friday said “the inquiries to the Justice Department and Planned Parenthood still stand, despite the organization’s apology.” However, Grassley has not yet decided whether to hold hearings at which Richards could be summoned to testify, the aide said.

In a letter to Richards, Grassley reminded her that 40 percent of Planned Parenthood’s annual revenue comes from federal funds – and gave her two weeks to provide a long list of documents and materials related to the agency’s procurement of fetal tissue, detailed in the video by Dr. Deborah Nucatola, senior director of medical services.

“Nucatola’s discussion… raises questions about whether the actions of abortion providers, and in particular those employed by Planned Parenthood and its affiliates, are consistent with federal law,” Grassley wrote.

Grassley reminded Richards of the federal laws barring human organs from being sold and prohibiting the use of fetal tissue resulting from an abortion for research.Partial-birth abortions, and altering the procedures of an abortion to obtain fetal tissue, are both also illegal.

Those prohibitions are grounded in multiple laws passed by Congress and amended over the years, most notably the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984 and the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003.

In his letter to Lynch, Grassley specifically asked for a description of what the Justice Department has done to make sure the 2003 partial-birth abortion law isn’t being violated.

“Nucatola’s discussion… raises questions about whether the actions of abortion providers, and in particular those employed by Planned Parenthood and its affiliates, are consistent with federal law,” Grassley wrote.

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