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Planned Parenthood videos’ impact at 1-year mark

WASHINGTON (BP) — Planned Parenthood remains a target of Capitol Hill investigation but retains its federal funding a year after undercover video first revealed the abortion giant’s trade in baby body parts.

A special congressional panel issued an interim update Thursday (July 14) on the one-year anniversary of the release of the first video showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of organs from aborted children. The series of secretly recorded videos featured Planned Parenthood executives discussing their sale of fetal parts as well as their willingness to manipulate the abortion procedure to preserve organs for sale and use.

In issuing the update, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R.-Tenn., who chairs the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives in the House of Representatives, reported its investigation into the trade in fetal tissue has found a “motive for illicit profit.” In its first six months of work, the panel has “uncovered evidence that some abortion providers have altered abortion procedures in a manner that substitutes what is best for the patient with a financial benefit for both the abortion clinic and the [tissue] procurement company.”

In the interim update, Blackburn and the Republican panel members reported one of their hearings uncovered serious concerns about the process used for women to grant consent.

“Evidence revealed that self-interested staff, whose pay depends on the numbers of specimens donated, were assigned to obtain consent from patients,” according to the update. “Additional evidence showed that tissue technicians and the abortion clinics violated the patient’s HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] rights. … This evidence points toward conduct focused on profit and not on patient welfare.”

A 1993 federal law prohibits payments beyond reasonable costs for such activities as processing, storage and transportation of human fetal tissue.

While the Republican-controlled Congress has approved inquiries by five different panels, it has been unable to enact a ban on funding for Planned Parenthood, the country’s leading abortion provider and the organization in the spotlight of the investigations.

Both the Senate and House passed legislation that would have eliminated about 90 percent of Planned Parenthood’s federal funding, but President Obama vetoed the bill in January. A House attempt to override the veto fell far short of the two-thirds majority required.

Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore and other pro-life advocates have urged Congress to defund Planned Parenthood.

“A year ago millions of Americans saw video evidence that the abortion industry dehumanizes the unborn and victimizes the born,” Moore told Baptist Press July 14 in written remarks.

“A human piracy operation like the one seen in the Planned Parenthood videos is a reproach on our national conscience,” said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “This footage serves as a sobering reminder of how far we have to go in the cause of life and human dignity, and how urgent that work still is.”

David Daleiden, who led the undercover video investigation as head of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), said on the one-year anniversary that the mounting evidence makes it “clear Planned Parenthood is guilty of far more wrongdoing in their fetal harvesting scheme than anyone initially realized. Planned Parenthood has claimed for one year that they made no money from baby body parts, but faced with an ever-growing body of evidence to the contrary, they have yet to produce anything other than press releases to back up their lies to the public.”

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood continued to describe the undercover video effort as a “smear campaign.”

At its website, the organization says, “Using heavily edited videos, extremists made now widely discredited and debunked accusations about our practices to facilitate fetal tissue donation at a small number of Planned Parenthood health centers. Opponents of safe and legal abortion are pushing to prevent patients who rely on federal funds from accessing care at Planned Parenthood or pass legislation that would severely curtail access to safe, legal abortion.”

Three months after release of the first undercover video, Planned Parenthood announced it would no longer receive reimbursement for fetal tissue it provides for research.

While Planned Parenthood and its Democratic allies have charged CMP with fraud, CMP has not only released edited versions of the videos but has posted at its website what it calls full footage of the conversations between Planned Parenthood officials and Daleiden plus others posing as representatives of a biologics firm.

A digital, forensics analysis in September reported the videos “are authentic.” Coalfire Systems Inc., which has some Fortune 500 companies among its clients, said the videos “show no evidence of manipulation or editing.”

Democrats on the House select panel have disputed the trustworthiness of the documents presented by the Republican majority. Some members have attacked the committee’s existence while seeking to discredit CMP.

The House’s Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives reported StemExpress, a leading tissue procurement business, “has consistently refused to produce subpoenaed accounting documents” required by the panel. The panel will seek to gain full compliance with its subpoenas from StemExpress and other organizations that have declined to cooperate, Blackburn said.

The panel is to issue a final report by Dec. 31.

While the federal government has failed to defund Planned Parenthood, at least 12 states have cut money for the organization. Judges have blocked those actions in some cases.

Daleiden was charged with two crimes in Texas because of his undercover work. A judge dismissed a misdemeanor count, but a felony charge for his use of a fake I.D. still stands.

Planned Parenthood and its affiliates received $553.7 million in government grants and reimbursements, according to its latest annual financial report (2014-15). Planned Parenthood affiliates performed 323,999 abortions during 2013-14, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

Author: Tom Strode

Tom Strode serves as Washington correspondent for Baptist Press.

View more articles by Tom Strode.

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