Growing List Of Planned Parenthood Investigations Hyped By Conservative Media Clears Organization Of Any Wrongdoing

››› ››› KATE SARNA

A growing list of state and federal inquiries are clearing Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing, after Republican lawmakers spurred on by conservative media demanded investigations into the women's health provider based on smears from deceptively edited videos.

Conservative Media Hyped Anti-Choice Group's Deceptively Edited Videos In Attempt To Smear Planned Parenthood

Center For Medical Progress Released 11 Deceptively Edited Videos Attacking Planned Parenthood, Despite Showing Nothing Illegal. As of October 27, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) had released 11 deceptively edited videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials "haggling over" prices for fetal tissue donations, offering to change procedure techniques "to get more intact fetuses," and selling donations without consent. None of the videos include any evidence of illegal activity on Planned Parenthood's behalf, and each of them have been found to be deceptively edited in order to leave out crucial context. [Media Matters7/14/157/21/157/28/157/30/158/4/15 8/12/158/19/15, 10/28/15]

Republican Lawmakers Capitalized On Phony Outrage To Call For State And Federal Investigations Into Planned Parenthood

Speaker John Boehner Asked Congressional Committees To Investigate Planned Parenthood. House Speaker John Boehner asked Republican-led congressional committees to investigate Planned Parenthood after the release of CMP's videos:

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called for an investigation into Planned Parenthood on Wednesday after an anti-abortion group released an undercover video that claims to show that the family planning provider sells fetal body parts.

"When an organization monetizes an unborn child -- and with the cavalier attitude portrayed in this horrific video -- we must all act," Boehner said in a statement. "As a start, I have asked our relevant committees to look into this matter. I am also calling on President Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to denounce, and stop, these gruesome practices."

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce followed suit shortly after, announcing an immediate investigation into Planned Parenthood. "This video is abhorrent and rips at the heart," committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said in a statement. "The committee will get to the bottom of this appalling situation." [The Huffington Post, 7/15/15]

At Least 11 States Have Launched Investigations Into Planned Parenthood. While there are "only three states in which Planned Parenthood affiliate clinics can participate in fetal tissue donation programs," Yahoo News pointed out, 11 states have launched investigations into the organization:

There are only three states in which Planned Parenthood affiliate clinics participate in fetal tissue donation programs: California, Colorado, and Texas.

And yet, to date, there have been 11 state-led investigations into Planned Parenthood following the release of the "sting" videos by the Center for Medical Progress: Texas, Ohio, Missouri (where there are hearings in the legislature only), Louisiana, Kansas, Georgia, Florida, Arizona (where it is qualified as inspections of clinics only, in compliance with current state law and procedure), Indiana, and Massachusetts. [Yahoo News, 8/19/15]

Growing List Of State And Federal Investigations Clear Planned Parenthood Of All Wrongdoing

U.S. Dept. Of Health And Human Services: There Are "No Known Violations Of The Country's Fetal Tissue Laws." In response to an inquiry by Republican Sens. Joni Ernst (Iowa) and Roy Blunt (MO), the Department of Health and Human Services told Congress that they "know of no violation of [tissue] laws in connection with the research done at our agencies":

The Obama administration says there are no known violations of the country's fetal tissue laws among government researchers or the companies that supply the tissue.

"Currently, we know of no violation of these laws in connection with the research done at our agencies," Jim Esquea, assistant secretary for legislation at HHS, wrote in a letter to Sens. Joni Ernst and Roy Blunt, obtained by POLITICO. "Furthermore ... we have confirmed that HHS researchers working with fetal tissue obtained the tissue from non-profit organizations that provided assurances to us that they are in compliance with all applicable legal requirements.

[...]

HHS has gotten re-affirmations from government researchers and government-funded researchers that their tissue procurement is done in accordance with the tissue laws. And it got assurances from the companies that provide that fetal tissue to researchers at NIH and FDA that they are obtaining the fetal tissue and organs in compliance with federal laws, the letter says. [Politico8/16/15]

Massachusetts: Investigation Reveals Planned Parenthood Is "Fully Compliant With State And Federal Laws." Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced on July 29 that her office has found "no evidence" of wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood after an investigation was concluded:

Attorney General Maura Healey says her office has found no evidence that the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts is operating the sort of fetal tissue donation program highlighted in a series of undercover videos released by a national anti-abortion group in recent weeks.

Healey's office conducted the review at the request of state Representative James J. Lyons Jr., an Andover Republican who cited a Center for Medical Progress video that showed a Planned Parenthood official discussing how the group provides fetal parts to medical researchers over lunch at a Los Angeles restaurant.

[...]

"Over the past week, my office has conducted a thorough review and found that Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts' health care centers are fully compliant with state and federal laws regarding the disposition of fetal tissue," Healey said in a statement. "Although donation of fetal tissue is permissible under state and federal law, PPLM does not have a tissue donation program. There is no evidence that PPLM is involved in any way in the buying or selling of tissue. As such, our review is complete." [The Boston Globe7/29/15]

Indiana: Planned Parenthood Cleared Of Any Wrongdoing In The Handling Of Fetal Tissue. On July 30, the Indiana Department of Health cleared Planned Parenthood clinics in the state of any wrongdoing after they were "unable to find any non-compliance with state regulation":

Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican, on July 16 ordered an investigation of Planned Parenthood facilities in Indianapolis, Bloomington and Merrillville to see if organs from aborted fetuses were being sold. He was among a number of conservative lawmakers around the country who have called for investigations after an anti-abortion group circulated a video it made secretly showing some of its national officials discussing how they obtain organs from aborted fetuses for research. Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest provider of abortions, has said its donations of fetal tissue for research are legal.

The Indiana Department of Health said in a statement Thursday that an investigation found no evidence of any laws being broken. Health department inspectors investigated the Indiana facilities on July 21.

Letters from the health department to the three Indiana facilities dated Tuesday and released to the media by Planned Parenthood said the agency had completed its investigation into the Planned Parenthood facilities that perform abortions in Indiana. The letters said the agency was "unable to find any non-compliance with state regulations. Therefore, no deficiencies were cited." The letters say the complaint is closed. [Associated Press, 7/30/15]

South Dakota: No "Evidence Of Illegal Activity" In South Dakota At Planned Parenthood Clinic. South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley determined that there was "no evidence of illegal activity" at the one Planned Parenthood clinic in the state:  

The state Health Department says it hasn't received any reports or evidence that the sale of fetal tissue has occurred in South Dakota since the department started regulating abortion facilities in 2006.

[...]

Spokeswoman Jennifer Aulwes says the organization doesn't have a program in the state for the legal donation of fetal tissue from terminated pregnancies and says it follows state and federal laws.

Attorney General Marty Jackley says he contacted the Health Department in mid-July about the issue. Jackley says there's no evidence of illegal activity. [KDLT News, 8/12/15]

Georgia: Department Of Public Health Finds Planned Parenthood "Complied With The Law." After a review into the state's abortion providers, the Georgia Department of Public Health "concluded an investigation" and found that Planned Parenthood and other clinics "are all complying with the law":

State public health investigators have concluded that Planned Parenthood Southeast and four other abortion providers are properly disposing of fetal tissues after abortions.

The commissioner of the Department Public Health, Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, told Gov. Nathan Deal in a letter Wednesday that her agency had completed the inquiry that Deal ordered last month after videotapes surfaced of national Planned Parenthood officials talking about harvesting fetal remains.

Fitzgerald wrote: "As you know, Georgia law requires that licensed abortion clinics (or a medical disposal service provider with whom they have contracted) to bury or cremate fetal remains following the termination of a pregnancy. DNA or genetic testing can and does take place in certain cases, such as if a rape has occurred or there was an abnormality in the pregnancy."

She said the abortion providers reviewed by her investigators are all complying with the law. [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution8/12/15]

Pennsylvania: "No Evidence" Of Wrongdoing By "Any Planned Parenthood" In Pennsylvania. As The Hill noted, Pennsylvania became the fifth state to find no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood. Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Karen Murphy noted that the Pennsylvania state health department "has never found a violation of the Abortion Control Act provisions regarding the procurement or use of fetal tissue":

Pennsylvania has found no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood in the state after a review, according to a letter from the state health department.

"Although donation of fetal tissue is lawful under the Abortion Control Act and federal law, our review has found that Planned Parenthood facilities in Pennsylvania do not participate in this practice," Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Karen Murphy wrote in a letter to a state legislator. "Moreover, there is no evidence that any Planned Parenthood site in this Commonwealth is involved in the buying or selling of fetal tissue."

Murphy said Planned Parenthood has contracted with "appropriate vendors to properly dispose of tissue."

"Since 2011 when the Department instituted annual and random unannounced surveys of Planned Parenthood facilities in Pennsylvania, the Department has never found a violation of the Abortion Control Act provisions regarding the procurement or use of fetal tissue," Murphy adds.  [The Hill8/21/15]

Florida: Planned Parenthood Cleared Of Mishandling Fetal Remains By Florida's Agency For Health Care Administration. Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) was ordered by Republican Gov. Rick Scott to investigate whether Florida Planned Parenthood locations illegally sold fetal tissue. The AHCA concluded its investigation on August 5 finding there was "no evidence of the mishandling of fetal remains at any of the 16 clinics we investigated across the state," however it was later revealed Scott's staff rewrote press releases about the investigation to remove sentences the AHCA staff wished to include that emphasized this finding. [Media Matters9/14/15; Politico Florida, 9/2/15]

Missouri: "No Evidence That Planned Parenthood's St. Louis Clinic ... Engaged In Unlawful Activity." Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster announced September 28 that the state's investigation "found no evidence that Planned Parenthood's St. Louis clinic mishandled fetal tissue or engaged in unlawful activity," as Reuters reported:

An investigation in Missouri found no evidence that Planned Parenthood's St. Louis clinic mishandled fetal tissue or engaged in unlawful activity, Attorney General Chris Koster's office said on Monday.

Koster's office had launched an investigation after an anti-abortion group released videos over the summer alleging that Planned Parenthood in other states illegally sold fetal tissue.

"The evidence reviewed by my investigators supports Planned Parenthood's representation that fetal tissue is handled in accordance with Missouri law," Koster said in a news release. "We have discovered no evidence whatsoever to suggest that Planned Parenthood's St. Louis facility is selling fetal tissue." [Reuters, 9/28/15]

Washington State:  "No Evidence To Support Claims That The Organization Sells Fetal Tissue Or Performs Illegal Partial-Birth Abortions." Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson released a 48-page memo detailing the results of his office's investigation into whether Washington Planned Parenthood affiliates were performing partial-birth abortions or selling fetal tissue for profit. As The Spokesman-Review reported, the investigation "found no evidence to support" the allegations: 

Planned Parenthood clinics in Washington do not sell fetal tissue and do not perform partial-birth abortions, conservative lawmakers were told Monday.

Responding to requests from 38 state representatives and 13 state senators, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said he assigned two of his attorneys to investigate their concerns about the organization after national reports of "trafficking in human body parts." That review found no evidence to support claims that the organization sells fetal tissue or performs illegal partial-birth abortions, and Ferguson called such unfounded allegations troubling. [The Spokesman-Review11/16/15]

Kansas: Planned Parenthood "Exonerated" As Kansas Medical Board Announces "No Action" Will Be Taken Following "Careful Review." The Associated Press reported on January 14 that the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts, "after completing an investigation into whether illegal sales of fetal tissue are occurring after abortions" announced it was "taking no action" against a Planned Parenthood clinic. In a letter sent to Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, board disciplinary attorney Dan Riley stated that after "careful review of the investigative materials" the board had concluded "no further action would be taken at this time."  The investigation followed a 2015 order from Republican Gov. Sam Brownback to investigate Planned Parenthood after the release of the deceptively-edited CMP videos. State Senator Laura Kelly (D) described the announcement as an "exonerat[ion]" of Planned Parenthood. [Associated Press, 1/14/16]

Michigan: "There Is No Evidence To Date That Illegal Practices Are Occurring" At Planned Parenthood. In July 2015, Republican Sen. Phil Pavlov demanded an investigation "to determine whether or not any Michigan-based facilities have participated in the horrifying sale of babies' body parts." NPR reported that in October, "the two departments handling the investigations issued a statement" concerning the findings of their work. They concluded that "there is no evidence to date that illegal practices are occurring." [NPR, 1/28/16]

Nevada: Attorney General Conducted Investigation And "Is Satisfied That The Nevada Offices Aren't Donating Tissue From Aborted Fetuses." Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt said in December 2015 that he had officially closed the investigation in December 2015, nothing that he was "satisfied that the Nevada offices aren't donating tissue from aborted fetuses." [Associated Press, 12/2/15]

Ohio: Investigation By Attorney General "Found No Evidence That Planned Parenthood Clinics In Ohio Sold Fetal Tissue." Following the release of the deceptively edited CMP videos, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine opened an investigation into the practices of Planned Parenthood clinics in the state. In December 2015, DeWine announced that his office had "found no evidence that Planned Parenthood clinics in Ohio sold fetal tissue." According to Cleveland.com, although DeWine cleared Planned Parenthood of "the original subject of the probe" he still alleged that Planned Parenthood had violated Ohio state code in its disposal of fetal tissue. [Cleveland.com, 12/11/15]

South Carolina: Investigation Into Planned Parenthood "Revealed No Criminal Wrongdoing" And That "No One Had Broken The Law." In August 2015, the South Carolina Legislative Oversight Committee opened an investigation into Planned Parenthood and its relationship with state agencies. The committee closed its  investigation on March 10 after finding that "no one had broken the law," according to The Post and Courier. The committee concluded that the investigation had "revealed no criminal wrongdoing" after learning that "the Department of Health and Human Services does not directly provide state funding to Planned Parenthood or other abortion providers," The Post and Courier reported. The report instead revealed that none of the abortions covered by Medicaid in the state had been performed by Planned Parenthood since at least 2011. Rep. James Smith (D-SC) said that although the investigation was merely "a McCarthy-style witch hunt," he was pleased that "in the end, Planned Parenthood was completely vindicated." [The Post and Courier, 3/10/16]

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