A new undercover video has prompted an intense GOP-led investigation into whether Planned Parenthood harvests and sells fetal body parts illegally.
Republicans vowed Wednesday to probe whether the abortion provider profits from selling livers, hearts, brains and other organs of aborted fetuses to companies that provide scientific researchers with human tissue.
"You cannot have a heart and not be moved by the callousness and indifference," said Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., flanked by about a dozen Republicans and one lone Democrat, Rep. Dan Lipinski.
Murphy, who is oversight chairman for the Energy and Commerce Committee, said his committee will hold a hearing on the matter. "We will keep this investigation open until we get answers," he said. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia also said he will hold an investigation.
A video showing a top Planned Parenthood director calmly discussing "crushing" body parts over lunch as she eats salad and wine has outraged Republicans and abortion opponents since it was released Tuesday.
The footage was obtained by a group called the Center for Medical Progress, which had two actors pose as representatives for a fake, California human biologics company while wearing a hidden camera. In the video, the two share lunch with Planned Parenthood doctor Deborah Nucatola, where she discusses how she and other doctors collect fetal organs while performing abortions.
The video doesn't prove that Planned Parenthood is selling fetal parts without the consent of the mother or for a profit — actions that would be illegal. In the three hours of footage, Nucatola emphasizes the importance of gaining consent from patients first and says clinics are anxious to avoid looking as though they're profiting from collecting and transporting the fetal organs.
But the video does feature Nucatola talking extensively about how abortions are carried out to keep desirable organs intact — and her comments are graphic enough to provide abortion opponents plenty of ammunition.
"We've been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I'm not going to crush that part, I'm going to basically crush below, I'm going to crush above, and I'm going to see if I can get it all intact," she tells her lunch partners.
"Frankly, it's disgusting," said Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., on Wednesday. "You have Planned Parenthood harvesting human organs for profit."
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy also said Wednesday he will work with House committees to investigate the group, saying he will continue to fight to "protect the sanctity of life."
"I speak for all my colleagues when I say I was deeply disturbed by the records and video of an organization engaging in such grotesque and inhumane practices," the California Republican said.
Republican presidential candidates including Carly Fiorina and Bobby Jindal also chimed in, calling it "tragic" and "outrageous."
Other activists, including the group Live Action, have previously released videos with the aim of incriminating Planned Parenthood. But this one is the first that highlights how abortion doctors at some Planned Parenthood clinics help collect organs to donate them for medical research purposes. It features Nucatola describing the procedure in graphic terms. And she admits that sometimes, doctors modify how they perform abortions to keep certain organs intact.
"This was the first time I think it was captured in their own words, cold, callous," said Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo. "While she was shoving salad in her mouth."
Wagner said that as part of their investigation, Republicans intend to look at "potential violations" of current laws and "identify areas where laws may be insufficient."
"We also want to look at activities of Planned Parenthood and companies involved in the brokering, buying and selling of body parts," she said.
Planned Parenthood has acknowledged that some of its affiliates serve as brokers for fetal organ donations, but contends it has done nothing illegal, collecting reimbursement only for the costs of collecting and transporting the organs.
"Aborted pregnancy tissue donation and research are humanitarian undertakings that hold the potential to cure disease, save lives and ameliorate suffering," the group wrote as part of its response.
"Some providers choose to offer this service to patients; in some cases patients are seeking tissue donation, and in other cases patients are informed of the option and choose tissue donation," it said.
Planned Parenthood didn't respond to another allegation raised by the video — that doctors sometimes modify the position of the fetus during an abortion to keep the brain intact.
In the footage, Nucatola says abortions should be carried out the same way, regardless of whether the woman wants to donate parts of the fetus. But she admits that sometimes, doctors intentionally move the baby to a breach position so it's easier to keep from crushing the skull as the fetus is terminated.
Abortion opponents say that could constitute a partial-birth abortion, which is prohibited by federal law.
Nucatola deleted her Twitter account on Tuesday, and Stem Express, one human biologics company that has partnered with some Planned Parenthood affiliates to collect organs, took down its website on Wednesday.