Planned Parenthood Federation of America appears to be gaining traction in its efforts to push back against videos targeting it and state efforts to cut its funding.
The Center for Medical Progress, which released undercover videos that it says show Planned Parenthood illegally profits from the sale of fetal tissue to medical researchers, is now under investigation in two states over the videos. In addition, the Obama administration warned Alabama, Arkansas and Louisiana that they might be in violation of federal law after moving to choke off Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood.
At the same time, Planned Parenthood has been cleared of the antiabortion group’s allegations in Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts and South Dakota, four of the dozen or so states investigating its fetal-tissue programs. Planned Parenthood said that only three states—California, Oregon and Washington—have programs where women can donate remains following an abortion, and all of those programs follow federal law.
“We believe the tide is beginning to shift,” said Sasha Bruce, senior vice president of Naral Pro-Choice America, the abortion-rights group.
The Center for Medical Progress, which has released six videos depicting Planned Parenthood and other officials discussing obtaining fetal tissue for medical research, didn’t return calls seeking comment. In an earlier statement, the Irvine, Calif., group said it would contest any attempts to suppress its First Amendment free-speech rights. It also said in a statement on its Facebook page that it “follows all applicable laws in the course of our investigative work.”
Antiabortion groups say the focus on Planned Parenthood isn’t fading. “States are taking action. That’s important,” said Mallory Quigley, a spokeswoman with the Susan B. Anthony List, which supports antiabortion political candidates. “Pro-life states are emboldened, and this is evidence like we’ve never had before. Momentum is still on our side, and there are more videos to come.”
Democratic lawmakers have stepped up calls for probes of the Center for Medical Progress. In Texas, Democratic State Sen. Sylvia Garcia this month asked the Harris County District Attorney, which is investigating Planned Parenthood in the Houston area, to look into possible violations by the antiabortion group, including alleged false representation by using actors posing as representatives of a biotech company.
“We will go where the case leads us,” said Jeff McShan, a spokesman for the office, adding that the review will look at both the Center for Medical Progress and Planned Parenthood.
California Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris is also reviewing the videos. Her office didn’t return a request seeking comment on the timetable.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has said she was aware of the videos, but hasn’t committed to a probe. A group of congressional Democrats has asked the Department of Justice to look into whether the antiabortion group broke any laws, such as recording without consent.
Abortion-rights supporters also have alleged the antiabortion group lied to the Internal Revenue Service about its purpose when it applied for tax-exempt status. An IRS spokesman said federal law prohibits the agency from discussing any kind of investigation.
On Monday, Planned Parenthood filed a request for an emergency injunction in a Florida court after the state health agency ordered it to stop performing abortions that the state alleges occurred in the second trimester without a proper license. Planned Parenthood says it has followed state law and asked the court to find the action by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration illegal.
“Planned Parenthood self-reported that they were performing unauthorized abortions during the second trimester at three of their Florida clinics,” the agency said, adding it “looks forward to litigating this matter.”
A state report said Florida law considers the second trimester to begin following the 12th week of pregnancy and last through the 24th week. Clinic administrators said they consider the first trimester to last for 13 weeks and six days after the patient’s last reported menstrual period, according to the state report. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said the medical standard is to measure pregnancy from the last menstrual period, which is roughly two weeks before fertilization. Based on that, 12 weeks after fertilization would be equivalent to 14 weeks after the last menstrual period.
Four states have moved to block funding for Planned Parenthood. The Obama administration notified Alabama, Arkansas and Louisiana that they might violate federal law requiring beneficiaries of the state-federal program to have free choice in choosing providers. New Hampshire’s move isn’t covered by the federal law because it cut state funds, not Medicaid money.
Meanwhile, in Utah, Gov. Gary Herbert issued a statement Friday saying the state health department and other state agencies will no longer distribute federal grant funds to Planned Parenthood, which a spokeswoman said includes Medicaid money. It is unclear whether the funds can be distributed another way.
The Republican-run House Oversight and Government Reform Committee also is looking into Planned Parenthood fetal-tissue programs, and on Friday sent letters to the Department of Health and Human Services requesting information on federal funding for the organization.
The panel also sent a letter to Planned Parenthood asking for other information, including a list of its 50 highest-paid employees.