The latest Planned Parenthood undercover video has set off a cascade of new calls for investigations, dimming the chance that the controversy over donations of fetal body parts will soon fade.
Half the Senate urged the Obama administration Wednesday to comply with two congressional probes into the group. Two Republican presidential candidates joined in too, with Sen. Rand Paul introducing an amendment to defund Planned Parenthood and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for the first time calling for an investigation of the group.
"That is not a compassionate situation," Bush said at a Crisis Pregnancy Center in South Carolina. "Congress has every right to investigate these abuses, because [Planned Parenthood] receives $500 million from the federal government."
Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the Department of Justice is now examining the videos, too. "At this point, we are going to review all the information and determine what steps we need to take," she said Wednesday.
It's not just Republicans pressing for action. Four House Democrats wrote to Lynch this week, asking her to investigate the anti-abortion group that obtained videos of Planned Parenthood discussing how some clinics are compensated by biomedical companies for obtaining aborted fetal tissue.
The controversy started last week, when a group called the Center for Medical Progress released an initial video showing a conversation between Planned Parenthood's medical director and two actors posing as employees of a company that sells human tissue to researchers. The group released a second video this week, featuring the same actors but a different Planned Parenthood official.
In the footage, Planned Parenthood officials discuss over lunch how doctors carry out abortions to keep certain organs intact so they can be donated for research. They also discuss how clinics are compensated from $30 to $100 per fetus. Mary Gatter, the group's council president, appears to haggle over the price, although she also says clinics aren't in it for the money.
The videos don't prove the group broke the law — as it is not illegal to be compensated for the costs of donating fetal tissue, only to profit from it — but Republicans say it provides them plenty of evidence to look into that possibility. They also are raising the question of whether Planned Parenthood doctors have illegally performed partial-birth abortions, which are banned by federal law.
"In addition to questions about Planned Parenthood's compliance with applicable federal law and medical ethics, we believe the footage prompts important policy questions surrounding the issue of abortions permitted so late in a pregnancy — sometimes even later than five months — that an unborn baby's organs can be identified and harvested," the group of GOP senators wrote, joined by one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
Two House committees are investigating Planned Parenthood and plan to hold hearings on its participation in fetal organ donations. There is a chance the House and Senate could vote on legislation defunding the group before August recess, although votes in the fall are more likely.
"Investigations have just gotten underway, so we will hold on legislative solutions until they are complete," Matt Sparks, a spokesman for Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, told the Washington Examiner.