The governors of Georgia and Indiana and Ohio's attorney general on Thursday ordered investigations of Planned Parenthood facilities in their states to determine if organs from aborted fetuses were being sold.
The state investigations — as well as probes announced Wednesday by three Republican-led congressional committees — come in response to the release of an undercover video made by anti-abortion activists. The video shows Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood's senior director of medical services, discussing procedures for providing fetal body parts to researchers.
Planned Parenthood officials said Thursday that Nucatola has been "reprimanded." They did not elaborate. The organization's president, Cecile Richards, apologized for the tone of some of Nucatola's recorded statements.
Nucatola is heard in the video referring to fetal hearts, lungs and livers and to efforts to retrieve these organs intact rather than crush them during an abortion procedure. She also is heard giving a range of monetary estimates for their procurement.
The commercial sale of fetal tissue is outlawed. Planned Parenthood, which provides abortions and other reproductive health services, says it legally helps women who want to make not-for-profit donations of their fetus' organs for scientific research.
According to Planned Parenthood, the monetary sums mentioned by Nucatola were for reimbursement of the clinics' costs in handling the tissue donations. "Nobody should be 'selling' tissue. That's just not the goal here," Nucatola says at one point.
The video, made covertly last year, was produced by the Irvine, California-based Center for Medical Progress, which released it with the support of several national anti-abortion organizations. It shows a lunchtime conversation between Nucatola and anti-abortion activists posing as potential buyers for a human biologics company. The group posted the video on its website.
On Thursday, GOP Govs. Nathan Deal in Georgia and Mike Pence in Indiana and GOP Attorney General Mike DeWine in Ohio ordered probes of Planned Parenthood clinics. DeWine said he'll investigate whether Planned Parenthood may have violated its not-for-profit status and made money from the sale of fetal organs.
“We have seen the governor’s letter,” said Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller. “As state government’s lawyer, my office will provide legal counsel as needed to our state government clients including the Indiana State Department of Health, with regard to the department’s assessment of whether medical regulations and other legal requirements are being followed.”
Pence also wrote to the Indiana congressional delegation about the video.
His letter also went to the U.S. attorneys in the state’s Northern and Southern federal court districts as well as to county prosecutors in Marion, Monroe, Tippecanoe, and Lake counties, all of which have Planned Parenthood facilities that perform abortions.
“Every Hoosier should be deeply troubled by allegations that Planned Parenthood affiliates are engaged in the trafficking of human remains. If true, this is not only illegal, it is morally reprehensible,” wrote Pence in his letter.
In a video, Richards of Planned Parenthood describes as "outrageous" the claims that the group's clinics were breaking the law by selling fetal tissue for profit. "Our donation programs — like any other high-quality health care providers — follow all laws and ethical guidelines," she said.
However, she said some of Nucatola's remarks heard on the undercover video did not reflect Planned Parenthood's commitment to "compassionate care."
"This is unacceptable, and I personally apologize for the staff member's tone and statements," Richards said. "If there is any aspect of our work that can be strengthened, we want to know about it, and we take swift action to address it."
In Congress, House Speaker John Boehner said Planned Parenthood has embraced "gruesome practices" and he voiced skepticism at the suggestion that its procedures were legitimate.
"If you saw the video, it certainly didn't strike me that way," he said. "I could talk about the video, but I think I'd vomit … It's disgusting."
Two Democratic congressmen, Reps. John Conyers of Michigan and Steve Cohen of Tennessee, criticized the launching of congressional investigations.
"House Leadership is using a sensationalist and heavily edited video as an opportunity to attack one of the nation's leading providers of high-quality health care for women," they said in a joint statement.