President Obama's top spokesman indicated that the White House is taking Planned Parenthood at its word when the group says it follows all ethical and legal guidelines when it comes to abortion, even after a video was released indicating the group may be violating the law by profiting from donated fetal tissue from abortions.
The Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group, secretly filmed a senior director of Planned Parenthood talking about the sale of body parts of aborted embryos. That director at one point indicated that it's possible to profit from these exchanges, an act that is against the law.
It is legal to donate fetal tissue from abortions, and Planned Parenthood's president, Cecile Richards, has defended the group's actions as legal. She said the group's doesn't profit from these donations and that "the donation program – like any other high-quality healthcare providers' – follows all laws and ethical guidelines."
On Friday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the group's explanation was good enough for the White House.
"I did read the news reports indicating that the policies that are followed by Planned Parenthood are entirely consistent with the strictest ethical guidelines that have been established in the healthcare industry," Earnest said.
He then tried to refer questions about Planned Parenthood's compliance with those standards to the group itself, and deflected when a reporter pressed him on whether the president believes it is ethical to sell aborted fetus remains.
"There are medical ethicists that have taken a close look at this, and Planned Parenthood, I understand, has said that they follow those ethical guidelines and in fact the highest ethical guidelines," he said. "But for their compliance with them and exactly what that means, I'd obviously refer you to them."
"I don't have intimate knowledge of the kinds of practices that they engage in," he added.
Earnest said he hasn't spoken to President Obama on the issue and hasn't seen the video in question.
On Thursday, Planned Parenthood apologized for the tone of the video and what she called a lack of compassion by the senior staff member during the discussion.
Still, Republicans in Congress have launched investigation into Planned Parenthood's activities based on comments made in the video.