​Politicians call for Planned Parenthood probe after alleged sale of fetal body parts

Reuters/Jonathan Alcorn
Several US politicians have called for an investigation into Planned Parenthood, following an undercover video, which shows its medical director talking about the sale of fetal body parts. Presidential candidate Ted Cruz is among those demanding a probe.

“Congress should immediately begin an investigation of Planned Parenthood's activities regarding the sale and transfer of aborted body parts, including who is obtaining them and what they are being used for,” Cruz wrote in a statement late on Tuesday.

The Republican presidential candidate added that “there is no place for taxpayer funding of organizations that profit from taking away innocent life, much less profiting off the bodies of the lives they have stolen.”

Jeb Bush, another Republican contender in the 2016 race, also expressed his disgust at the video. He wrote on Twitter, “this is a shocking and horrific reminder that we must do so much more to foster a culture of life in America.”

That sentiment was echoed by Republican candidate Carly Fiorina, who wrote on Facebook, “this latest news is tragic and outrageous.”

Dr. Ben Carson, also part of the 2016 presidential race, has urged Washington to cease Planned Parenthood funding.

But while the 2016 candidates continue on the campaign trail, those who are already in office have taken it a step further by actually ordering investigations in their states.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has been outspoken about his disgust following the video's release, noting that Planned Parenthood is currently seeking to open an abortion clinic in New Orleans.

"Today's video of a Planned Parenthood official discussing the systematic harvesting and trafficking of human body parts is shocking and gruesome,” Jindal said.

He is even reaching out to the FBI to assist with the investigation.

“I have instructed Louisiana's Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) to conduct an immediate investigation into this alleged evil and illegal activity and to not issue any licenses until this investigation is complete. I am also asking the FBI to assist DHH in investigating this alleged criminal activity by this organization,” he said.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott made a similar statement, calling the video “unnerving and appalling.”

“In light of the video, I have directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to conduct an immediate investigation of this alleged practice in addition to a separate investigation ordered by the Texas Office of the Attorney General,” he said.

Meanwhile, an online petition has been launched by LifeNews, a pro-life website, calling for Congress to investigate Planned Parenthood. Several organizations are supporting a federal investigation, including the American Life League, Students for Life of America, and Priests for Life.

Planned Parenthood's response

Planned Parenthood has denied that the newly released eight-minute undercover footage shows its medical director offering to sell the body parts of aborted fetuses.

Dr. Deborah Nucatola, was believed to be nonchalantly talking to two people posing as representatives of a fetal tissue procurement company.

While eating a salad and sipping on a glass of wine, she casually explains the process of fetal donation – even putting a price tag of $30 to $100 on each specimen.

But the non-profit organization says the video – filmed by The Center for Medical Progress – was "heavily edited" and aimed at “damaging Planned Parenthood's mission and services.”

Instead, it says it is only involved in fetal donation for scientific research, adding that it doesn't receive payment for such donations – despite Nucatola's claim.

“In health care, patients sometimes want to donate tissue to scientific research that can help lead to medical breakthroughs, such as treatments and cures for serious diseases. Women at Planned Parenthood who have abortions are no different. 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 doeswith full, appropriate consent from patients and under the highest ethical and legal standards,”Planned Parenthood's vice president for communications, Eric Ferrero, said in a statement.

“There is no financial benefit for tissue donation for either 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.”

But Nucatola's on-camera comments suggest a drastically different story, with the doctor apparently supporting the notion of Planned Parenthood looking up companies who purchase stem cells and “presenting them with a menu.”

She also speaks about adjusting her tactics when carrying out an abortion procedure, depending on what can be used from each particular fetus. This has drawn criticism from medical ethics professionals who say that doctors should be focused on providing safe abortions, rather than adjusting techniques for the clinic's benefit.

“For example, so I had eight cases yesterday, and I knew exactly what we needed...so I knew which were the cases that were probably more likely to yield what we needed, and I made my decisions according to that, too,” Nucatola says in the video.

The sale of body parts is illegal in the United States, although tissue donation is allowed, as long as there is no profit involved.

The Center for Medical Progress, which filmed the video using undercover cameras, says on its website that it is “a group of citizen journalists dedicated to monitoring and reporting on medical ethics and advances.”

It adds that the video is “the first by The Center for Medical Progress in its ‘Human Capital’ series, a nearly three-year-long investigative journalism study of Planned Parenthood’s illegal trafficking of aborted fetal parts.”

According to The Washington Post, the Center is run by David Daleiden, a pro-life activist who previously worked with Live Action - another group known for its undercover “stings” of Planned Parenthood.

Despite Planned Parenthood's claim that the video was edited, the Center did release a full video of the lunchtime conversation with Nucatola, which has a running time of two hours and 42 minutes. However, many have also alleged that the longer version could have been edited.