This article has been updated.
On July 16, two days after the anti-abortion group the Center for Medical Progress released its first secret-camera video of Planned Parenthood doctors discussing fetal tissue donation, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence ordered an investigation into the group. “It is my obligation as governor of the state of Indiana to make sure that this is not happening in Indiana,” he said, apparently referring to allegations that Planned Parenthood profits from tissue donation, which it has denied.
That investigation ended yesterday, exactly two weeks later, with no charges filed and no violations found. Why so fast? Well, it turns out Planned Parenthood in Indiana doesn’t even participate in fetal tissue donation for medical research, which is legal under federal law — and it had informed the state of that before the investigation began.
The videos released so far by the Center for Medical Progress take place in California and Colorado. Neither state has announced an investigation into Planned Parenthood, though California attorney general Kamala Harris has said she is looking into allegations that the Center for Medical Progress violated the law, at the request of Democratic members of Congress. Planned Parenthood says affiliates in fewer than five states participate in fetal tissue donation, though it will not say which ones, citing security issues. In the wake of the videos, about a dozen states have announced investigations into the organization, along with two committees in the House of Representatives.
“I have instructed Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals to conduct an immediate investigation into this alleged evil and illegal activity,” Louisiana governor and candidate for the Republican presidential nomination Bobby Jindal announced after the first video was released.
That, too, should be a short investigation, since Planned Parenthood does not even perform abortions in Louisiana. Authorities there are aware of this, judging from the letter Jindal’s Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert sent to the organization in the course of the investigation.
“Please confirm that no existing Louisiana Planned Parenthood facilities, or any affiliates, subsidiaries or associates thereof, offer abortion or abortion-related services, given that none of your Louisiana facilities are licensed as abortion providers,” she wrote. Planned Parenthood of the Gulf Coast confirmed that they do not.
In Texas, the state Senate convened a hearing “to investigate whether state or federal laws are being broken by Planned Parenthood and/or its affiliates in Texas in regards to the donation and/or sale of fetal tissue.” But according to Planned Parenthood, none of its Texas affiliates participate in fetal tissue donation, though a Planned Parenthood facility in Houston said it had been visited by “Biomax,” the fake fetal tissue procurement firm the Center for Medical Progress pretended to be.
Representatives from Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast refused to attend the hearing, though it sent written testimony. “This committee has made it abundantly clear that it has no desire to hold a responsible, fair, fact-driven hearing. It is clear that this committee cares more about political gamesmanship than the truth,” president Melaney Linton said in a statement. In Planned Parenthood’s absence, the San Antonio Express-News reported that the hearing turned into a “brainstorming session for Republican lawmakers to discuss how to further restrict abortion in Texas and defund Planned Parenthood.”
At that hearing, Texas attorney general Ken Paxton said he had received videos from the Center for Medical Progress that have not yet been publicly posted. “Pressed for a timeline, Paxton only signaled that it might be too optimistic to expect the investigation to be finished within the next month,” the Associated Press reported.
Kamala Harris, the attorney general of California, where the first two videos were recorded, has announced she is investigating too — but into allegations that the Center for Medical Progress broke the law in obtaining the videos. “We will carefully review the allegations raised in your letter to determine whether there were any violations of California law,” Harris said in response to Democratic members of Congress who asked her to investigate. She mentioned “allegations that individuals impersonated corporate officials from a fake biologics company, resulting in the release of secretly filmed videos of Planned Parenthood physicians without their consent.”
Two groups have already gone to court to block the Center for Medical Progress from releasing more videos. StemExpress, a for-profit company that partners with medical researchers and clinics, including abortion providers, to process tissue donation, won a temporary restraining order in a California court Tuesday. The effect is to block the release of videos that show StemExpress employees — at least until a hearing can be held next month — in part on the grounds that they violated California wiretapping laws. Late Friday, a California federal district court judge blocked any further video releases by the Center for Medical Progress, according to the Associated Press, after the National Abortion Federation, a trade association for abortion providers that said that its employees faced danger and harassment from being recorded at their heavily secured conference requested judicial intervention.