AUSTIN – Gov. Greg Abbott late Tuesday said state officials will look into whether Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas are harvesting fetal body parts as other officials here and across the country called for investigations following the release of an undercover video.
“The video of a high-level Planned Parenthood executive discussing the details of internal abortion procedures – including harvesting of baby body parts – is unnerving and appalling,” Abbott said in a statement about the video, which appears to show the organization’s senior director of medical services drinking red wine while discussing in graphic detail how to preserve the organs of a fetus during an abortion, and how much it would cost.
“In light of the video,” Abbott said, “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.”
The announcement of the investigations came after a day in which Republicans such as U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and state Sen. Brandon Creighton of Conroe called for inquiries. Cruz, who is running for president, directed his demand toward Congress, while Creighton, a first-term state senator, urged the state health department to look into the issue.
The video was released Tuesday morning by the Center for Medical Progress, a California-based group founded by anti-abortion activists. It purports to show medical director Deborah Nucatola talking about fetal hearts, lungs and livers with secret videographers posing as potential buyers for a human biologics company.
Selling human fetal tissue is illegal in the United States, but donation is allowed.
A national Planned Parenthood spokesman called the video “heavily edited.”
“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,” said the spokesman, Eric Ferrero, in a statement. “There is no financial benefit for tissue donation to 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.”
That point also seems to come through in the video when Nucatola says, “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.”
Republicans, however, pointed to the video as proof that Planned Parenthood is selling body parts.
“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 said. “And it should renew efforts to fully defund Planned Parenthood to ensure that its morally bankrupt business receives not one penny of taxpayer money.”
Creighton called the video “heartbreaking and chilling,” and said that in response, “we cannot stand idly by.”
Another Texas politician, former Gov. Rick Perry, who like Cruz is running for president, used the news to tout how Texas defunded Planned Parenthood under his leadership.
“The video showing a Planned Parenthood employee selling the body parts of aborted children is a disturbing reminder of the organization’s penchant for profiting off the tragedy of a destroyed human life,” Perry said in a statement. “It is because of stories like this that I signed legislation defunding Planned Parenthood in the state of Texas.”
Texas lawmakers in 2011 kicked Planned Parenthood out of the state’s Women’s Health Program, a move that caused the federal government to withdraw matching funds. This year, with Abbott as governor, the Legislature removed the organization from the state’s smaller Breast and Cervical Cancer Services program.
The organization still has several women’s health clinics and abortion facilities in the state, however. A spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood in Texas did not return a message seeking comment.
Abbott was not the first governor to move toward a probe.
Bobby Jindal of Louisiana said earlier in the day that he would direct that state’s health department to investigate, even though Planned Parenthood does not perform abortions there.
Originally Published: Houston Chronicle, 07/14/15