WASHINGTON (AP) – A Republican-led House committee asked Friday for a briefing from the Planned Parenthood official whose secretly recorded discussion of how her organization obtains tissue from aborted fetuses for research has ignited a new GOP political offensive on abortion.
The letter to Planned Parenthood from GOP leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said comments by Dr. Deborah Nucatola “raise most troubling questions with regard to your organization’s practices when performing abortions and whether those practices are consistent with federal law.”
Planned Parenthood has reprimanded Nucatola and apologized for her “tone and statements.” The group says it only retrieves organs with the consent of patients and says it has broken no laws, which forbid the commercial sale of fetal tissue and ban a late-term abortion procedure opponents call “partial-birth abortion.”
Planned Parenthood officials did not immediately say whether Nucatola would appear.
Top Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee sent a separate letter Friday to Attorney General Loretta Lynch asking her to describe how the Justice Department enforces the prohibition against that abortion procedure, and to investigate whether Planned Parenthood has violated it.
Justice Department officials did not immediately answer a request for comment.
A little-known anti-abortion group called the Center for Medical Progress released video Tuesday in which Nucatela, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical services, describes how her group obtains organs from fetuses. That has prompted Republican lawmakers and presidential hopefuls, along with conservative groups, to condemn Planned Parenthood and demand a halt to its federal funding.
Secretly recorded over wine and lunch by two actors posing as would-be purchasers of fetal tissue, the video shows Nucatela casually discussing how her group charges $30 to $100 for getting the organs.
In the full video, which has received less attention than an excerpted version, she says repeatedly that the fees are designed to cover costs and that the process is aimed at furthering research. Democrats say Republicans are using it for an unsubstantiated attack on Planned Parenthood and to appeal to conservative voters and donors.
Nucatola also discusses steps that can be taken during abortions so particular organs can be retrieved, saying, “I’m not gonna crush that part.” However, she also says that effort should not change how or when the procedure is performed, saying, “They’re not going to treat these patients any differently.”
GOP leaders of the House committee, including Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., said they want Nucatola to brief committee aides this month. The letter said they want her to explain the group’s standards for “the collection and sale of fetal tissue.”