Texas AG launches probe into Planned Parenthood fetal parts video

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015
A sign is seen outside of a Planned Parenthood in this undated file photo.
A sign is seen outside of a Planned Parenthood in this undated file photo.

AUSTIN (KTRK) -- Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has launched a probe into Planned Parenthood after a covert video produced by anti-abortion activists was released yesterday. The video shows a senior Planned Parenthood official discussing the disposition of parts from aborted fetuses.

Paxton's office released a statement that said, in part: "The Office of the Attorney General has launched an official investigation into Planned Parenthood following the release of a video that details the organization's calculated slaughter of human babies to maximize the available body parts they plan to sell. The video offers a glimpse into an organization that knowingly and deliberately destroys human life to further its bottom line."

The video was made covertly last year, depicting a lunchtime conversation between Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood's senior director of medical services, and anti-abortion activists posing as potential buyers for a human biologics company.

The activists contend the video reveals illegalities, but Planned Parenthood said the activity in question was the legal, not-for-profit donation of fetal tissue to research firms.

Commercial sale of human fetal tissue is illegal under federal law, but non-commercial tissue donation is allowed if the woman undergoing an abortion gives her consent.

In addition to Paxton's statement, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick also released a statement, calling for an "expedited committee investigation."

He said via the statement, "The recent video of one of Planned Parenthood's senior executive directors nonchalantly discussing the business dealings of distributing unborn child body parts and tissue is appalling. Texas taxpayers must be assured that the sanctity of life and the dignity of human remains are diligently being protected. Texans also deserve to know that no tax dollars are supporting a business that admittedly generates funds through the exploitation of abortions over choosing innocent life. I am requesting...an interim hearing within the next month to ensure no laws are being broken. The committee will report back to the full Senate on Planned Parenthood's business practices conducted in Texas, and make whatever recommendations are appropriate."

In the video, Nucatola is heard giving a range of monetary estimates. According to Planned Parenthood, which has national offices in New York and Washington, D.C., the doctor "was speculating on the range of reimbursement that patients can receive after stating they wish to donate any tissue after a procedure."

"At several of our health centers, we help patients who want to donate tissue for scientific research, and we do this just like every other high-quality health care provider does - with full, appropriate consent from patients and under the highest ethical and legal standards," Planned Parenthood spokesman Eric Ferrero said at the time the video was released.

Ferrero said there is no financial benefit for tissue donation for the patient or for Planned Parenthood.

"In some instances, actual costs, such as the cost to transport tissue to leading research centers, are reimbursed, which is standard across the medical field," he said in a statement.

That point also is conveyed by Nucatola, who says in the video, "This is not something with any revenue stream that affiliates are looking at - this is a way to offer patients the services they want and do good for the medical community."

The video was produced by the Irvine, California-based Center for Medical Progress, which released it in collaboration with several national anti-abortion organizations that called for a congressional investigation.

The founder of the Center for Medical Progress, David Daleiden, previously worked with the anti-abortion group Live Action, which has released several undercover videos aimed at discrediting Planned Parenthood.

Ferrero said the new video "falsely portrays Planned Parenthood's participation in tissue donation programs that support lifesaving scientific research."

"Similar false accusations have been put forth by opponents of abortion services for decades," he said. "These groups have been widely discredited, and their claims fall apart on closer examination, just as they do in this case."

Daleiden said the new video is the first in a planned series that culminates a nearly three-year investigation.

"Planned Parenthood's criminal conspiracy to make money off of aborted baby parts reaches to the very highest levels of their organization," he said. "Elected officials must listen to the public outcry for Planned Parenthood to be held accountable to the law."