Planned Parenthood Video Secretely Filmed In Houston Further Stirs Pot

A portion of the covertly filmed video that served as the basis for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's Texas Senate testimony against Planned Parenthood last week was released to the public Tuesday morning. It's heavily edited, shot by a rabid anti-abortion group and impossible to date, but it's chock-full of the stuff that's stoked the Republican fire over Planned Parenthood for the past month and will do nothing to head off the multiple investigations against the organization currently being conducted by the state. The thrust of this video is similar to the first four released by the Center for Medical Progress: A Planned Parenthood official — Melissa Farrell, the director of research for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast in this case — discusses the organization's potential provision of fetal tissue specimens to people filming for CMP. The CMP activists always present themselves as researchers and never say that they are filming.

This video, filmed in Houston, includes graphic footage of a PPGC lab and features a discussion with Farrell about the ways specific fetal tissue, like livers and brain matter, can be protected during an abortion procedure for use by researchers. CMP claims that, in discussing the preservation methods, Farrell admits to breaking federal law, which prohibits the altering of abortion procedures in order to facilitate fetal tissue research. In the transcript of the unedited video, the meaning of Farrell's statements is significantly muddier. From the transcript:

"And we bake that into our contract, and our protocol, that we follow this. And we deviate from our standard in order to do that. So, you know, we can do it in a way that we're still verifying that everything is there for the safety of the patient, but then we maintain the integrity of that sample. So yeah, that's definitely something we can do. So as far as, this is our standard process, telling you then we can get creative about when and where and under what conditions can we interject something that is specific to the tissue needs."

PPGC said Tuesday that it and its employees have done nothing illegal.

“The footage released today doesn’t show Planned Parenthood staff engaged in any wrongdoing or agreeing to violate any legal or medical standards. Instead, the latest tape shows an extremely offensive intrusion and lack of respect for women, with footage of medical tissue in a lab. These extremists show a total lack of compassion and dignity for women’s most personal medical decisions," Melaney A. Linton, President & CEO of PPGC said in a statement. “The group behind these videos has close ties with organizations and individuals who have firebombed abortion clinics and threatened the physical safety of doctors who provide abortion. The real agenda of these attacks has become totally clear: to ban abortion and limit women's access to reproductive healthcare at Planned Parenthood. The vast majority of the public rejects this extreme political agenda and rejects the fraudulent campaign behind it.”

Last week, ahead of the senate hearing, PPGC accused Texas anti-abortion state senators of collaborating with CMP. Charles Schwertner, the chair of the investigating Health and Human Services Committee, admitted to having a video but would not verify its provenance. Abby Johnson, a former PPGC employee and anti-abortion activist, was invited to testify in front of the committee despite the fact that she hasn't worked for Planned Parenthood in more than five years and couldn't speak directly as to what was purportedly being investigated — whether or not Planned Parenthood is currently harvesting fetal body parts for profit in the state of Texas. The video released by CMP Tuesday includes footage of Johnson's testimony.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott vowed to investigate Planned Parenthood even harder, saying Tuesday that "[s]elling baby body parts is the furthest thing imaginable from providing women’s healthcare."

Wednesday, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick called on the Harris County District Attorney to look into PPGC.

"After watching the video of Houston Planned Parenthood Research Director Melissa Farrell talk of selling intact fetuses (babies in my vocabulary) to an undercover video team, I am asking Harris Co D.A Devon Anderson to immediately initiate a criminal investigation into the matter. 

The Obama administration continues to support Planned Parenthood and Senate Democrats blocked stopping funding to PP this week. This is not, and should not be, a partisan issue. This barbaric treatment of innocent babies in the womb, which PP also calls a line item in their budget, must stop. If laws have been broken then those responsible must be held accountable. Since the Federal Government is not interested in looking into the criminal aspect of this gruesome practice, the investigation will begin here in Harris County."

Planned Parenthood Greater Texas, the umbrella organization that includes DFW's Planned Parenthood clinics, says that it's never participated in fetal tissue donation for research. Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast says it has not participated in fetal tissue donation for research since 2010.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young

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