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The Brief: July 15, 2015

Gov. Greg Abbott is launching an investigation into the video released Tuesday that shows a Planned Parenthood executive talking about how aborted fetus organs can be used for medical research.

Gov. Greg Abbott at the Texas State Prayer Breakfast in Austin on May 4, 2015.

The Big Conversation

Gov. Greg Abbott is launching an investigation over the video released Tuesday that shows a Planned Parenthood executive talking about how aborted fetus organs can be used for medical research.

The undercover video drew quick responses from Texas Republicans, although Planned Parenthood called it a "heavily edited, secretly recorded videotape that falsely portrays" the group's work.

The Tribune's Edgar Walters has more on Abbott's actions:

"The video of a high-level Planned Parenthood executive discussing the details of internal abortion procedures — including harvesting of baby body parts — is unnerving and appalling,” Abbott said in a statement. “In light of the video, I have directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to conduct an immediate investigation of this alleged practice in addition to a separate investigation ordered by the Texas Office of the Attorney General.”

The video, filmed by a group called the Center for Medical Progress, portrays Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical research, discussing how to “crush” a fetus in a way that keeps its internal organs intact. ... 

Planned Parenthood clinics, with a patient’s permission, may sometimes donate fetal tissue for use in stem-cell research, a spokesman for the national group said in a statement Tuesday.

Abbott's predecessor, Rick Perry, called the video a "disturbing reminder of the organization’s penchant for profiting off the tragedy of a destroyed human life" and highlighted his defunding of Planned Parenthood in Texas. And Perry's 2016 rival, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, called on Congress to investigate Planned Parenthood and its "sale and transfer of aborted body parts."

Disclosure: Planned Parenthood was a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune in 2011. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Trib Must-Reads

Analysis: Schools Changing, and Not How You Might Think, by Ross Ramsey — The public school population in Texas has grown dramatically, and in a way some might find surprising: Most of the growth has come in the numbers of economically disadvantaged students.

Operation Jade Helm 15 Gets Underway in Texas, by Patrick Svitek — Operation Jade Helm 15, the military training exercise that sparked an international frenzy earlier this year, gets underway Wednesday in Texas.

Pro-Perry Groups Launch TV Ads for National Audience, by Patrick Svitek — Super PACs supporting former Gov. Rick Perry are hoping to boost his national profile by airing ads on cable TV. The groups are launching an effort geared toward securing him a spot in the GOP's first presidential debate next month.

New Test Causing Fewer Texans to Get GEDs, by Sophia Bollag — For millions of Texans without high school diplomas, the test to earn a high school equivalency certificate has become harder and more expensive, the State Board of Education was told Tuesday.

Abbott Won't Detail Who's Paying for Job Hunting Trips, by Patrick Svitek — Gov. Greg Abbott is in New York touting Texas and looking for jobs to poach. But he won't give details on who's paying for the trip, or similar jaunts planned to Mexico and Cuba later this year.

Texas Republicans Pull No Punches in Assessing Iran Deal, by Abby Livingston — Republicans across the board were extremely critical of the nuclear deal with Iran that President Obama announced Tuesday. It was hard to find stronger reactions than those coming from members of Texas' GOP congressional delegation.

Abbott Shuts Door on Tesla Loophole, by Jim Malewitz — Giving a nod to franchised auto dealerships, Gov. Greg Abbott has suggested that Texas doesn’t need to carve out a loophole in its laws that would allow Tesla to sell its high-end electric cars directly to consumers. 

McCaul: "Absurd" to Think Guzmán Fled Without Inside Help, by Julián Aguilar — The Texan who is the U.S. House's top Republican on homeland security issued a scathing indictment of Mexican officials on Tuesday for letting Joaquin Guzmán, the world’s most notorious drug lord, tunnel out of a maximum-security prison.

The Day Ahead

•   The July semiannual campaign finance reports are due to the Texas Ethics Commission


Rick Perry's Plan to Kill Obama's Iran Deal, Bloomberg View

Jeb Bush’s fundraising haul was impressive. Ted Cruz’s was more important, Washington Post

Ted Cruz gets personal with medical research funding, The Dallas Morning News

Poll: Trump leads GOP field; Cruz in 4th and Perry trailing, The Dallas Morning News

Perry proposes cutting federal funding to sanctuary cities – like Houston, Austin?, Houston Chronicle

State Guard to monitor Jade Helm from Austin, San Antonio Express-News

How Texas deals with oil’s decline, CNBC

Fort Worth billionaire Sid Bass invests in Blue Bell Creameries, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

With El Chapo’s escape, experts fear more bloodshed along Texas-Mexico border, The Dallas Morning News

Members of Congress say release of detained mothers and children not enough, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Texas Hospitals Fear Feds Might Reduce Medicaid Waiver, KUT

Quote to Note

"Sen. Cruz stands by everything he has written in his book."

Catherine Frazier, a spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, disputing comments from Cruz's colleagues that some of the anecdotes in his book are inaccurate

Today in TribTalk

The 2015 Texas Senate, from left to right, by Mark P. Jones — Who had the most conservative voting record in the Texas Senate this year? The most liberal? A new analysis looks at the evidence.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    The Texas Tribune Festival on Oct. 16-18 at the University of Texas at Austin

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