The Justice Department is taking steps to investigate Planned Parenthood, The Daily Beast has learned.
The head of Justice’s office of legislative affairs has sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee asking for documents from its investigation of Planned Parenthood’s fetal tissue practices. The Daily Beast reviewed the letter, which says the requested documents are “for investigative use.”
Planned Parenthood for America did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story. The organization’s website says that only a few of its affiliates share fetal tissue with researchers, and that criticisms of the practice are a “smear campaign.” In October 2015, after undercover videos highlighting Planned Parenthood’s fetal tissue programs generated outrage, the organization announced it would stop accepting any reimbursement from researchers for fetal tissue.
The Justice Department’s request refers to a report that the Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans released last December, called “Human Fetal Tissue Research: Context and Controversy.” That report discusses how biomedical research corporations contracted with Planned Parenthood affiliates for fetal tissue. It mentioned contracts between those corporations and several Planned Parenthood affiliates, including Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, and Planned Parenthood of Northern California. The report detailed the “specimen service fees” that biomedical researchers charged for tissue from a 20-week-old fetus –– $325 for a fetus’s brain, $650 for two eyes –– and questioned whether the biomedical research corporations ultimately profited from their disbursement of fetal tissue. It called for the Justice Department to investigate the matter.
At the time, Planned Parenthood said Grassley’s report did not demonstrate any wrongdoing.
“Planned Parenthood’s standards have always gone above and beyond what the law required,” said Dana Singiser, the organization’s vice president of government relations. “As investigation after investigation has shown, Planned Parenthood has done nothing wrong. Senator Grassley’s report attempts to paint a nefarious picture of the simple re-formatting of a document—showing once again that there is no actual wrongdoing to point to.”
Pro-life activists have long been pushing for the Justice Department to investigate Planned Parenthood. And they cheered the news.
“I think it’s fantastic, and I think the House and Senate should follow up by defunding Planned Parenthood,” said Tom McClusky, vice president of government affairs at the March for Life. “There’s no way taxpayer funds should be going to an organization under investigation like this.”
Lila Rose, who heads Live Action, said the investigation is reason for Congress to cut funding to Planned Parenthood.
“We applaud any action by the DOJ to follow the evidence where it leads — and the Senate Judiciary report reveals substantial evidence suggesting Planned Parenthood profits from the sale of baby body parts,” she said. “Taxpayers should not be forced to fund a corporation that commits over 320,000 abortions every year and is now under investigation by the Justice Department and FBI for the sale of baby body parts.”
Though Ivanka Trump reportedly held a secret summit with Planned Parenthood head Cecile Richards shortly after Inauguration, President Donald Trump’s administration has taken steps to limit funding to the abortion provider.
In March, Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate to let states block some federal funding to Planned Parenthood.