At the urging of state leaders, Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson announced Wednesday she would launch a criminal investigation into a Planned Parenthood clinic in Houston.
The announcement comes after an undercover video surfaced showing an executive at the clinic discussing the cost of providing organs from aborted fetuses for medical research. Texas’ Republican leaders have alleged that the video may show the clinic illegally selling fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood vehemently denies the accusation.
“It is not clear at this time what, if any, crimes have been committed at the Gulf Coast facility,” Anderson said. “That is why I am initiating this investigation.”
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick asked Anderson, a hometown political ally, to pursue the criminal investigation after an anti-abortion group, the Center for Medical Progress, released an undercover video filmed at the Houston clinic.
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The video portrays Melissa Farrell, director of research for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, discussing administrative costs of harvesting fetal organs at various stages of gestation. It also shows footage of researchers handling preserved fetal tissue.
Anderson’s announcement marked the latest of several investigations in Texas into Planned Parenthood. Attorney General Ken Paxton and Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Chris Traylor are separately investigating the women's health organization and the practice of fetal tissue donation in Texas, and the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services last week convened a hearing on the practice.
Republicans have accused Planned Parenthood of illegally selling the tissue. Patrick, in his request for a criminal investigation, said the video appeared to show the organization “profiteering from selling body parts from aborted babies.”
The video “doesn’t show Planned Parenthood staff engaged in any wrongdoing or agreeing to violate any legal or medical standards," Melaney Linton, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, said in a statement Tuesday. The women's health organization has said the videos are maliciously edited and misrepresent the organization’s work.
With a patient’s permission, Planned Parenthood clinics may sometimes donate fetal tissue for use in stem-cell research, and researchers may reimburse Planned Parenthood for costs associated with those donations, the organization has said.
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.