Republican leaders are demanding an investigation into Planned Parenthood's organ-harvesting practices, but they quashed the last congressional probe of the country's largest abortion provider.

Back in 2011 and 2012, former Rep. Cliff Stearns collected documents from Planned Parenthood clinics around the country and insisted that he gathered enough evidence showing that the clinics overbilled Medicaid and used federal funds for abortions to hold a congressional hearing.

But when he tried to schedule a hearing, House GOP leaders wouldn't give him the go-ahead, he says.

RELATED: New video alleges Planned Parenthood sells body parts

"I was trying to convince leadership, but they didn't want to do it," the Florida Republican told the Washington Examiner Thursday, saying they felt the issue was too "volatile." Leadership then included Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy — who was whip at the time — and former Rep. Eric Cantor.

"We had the information, we were ready to go," Stearns said. "Our leadership would not let me do the hearing ... it started moving to 2012, which were the elections, so the politics overcame."

Attacking Planned Parenthood can yield mixed political results for Republicans, who aren't eager to be added to the group's hit list when election season comes around, and who are trying to soften their image with women. On the other hand, abortion is controversial and targeting the group can excite the GOP base.

Boehner and McCarthy are directing two House panels to investigate whether Planned Parenthood illegally performed partial-birth abortions and sold fetal body parts for a profit, putting the group squarely back into the political spotlight.

This time, Republicans and anti-abortion activists are optimistic the newest investigation will result in concrete evidence that Planned Parenthood broke the law, instead of fizzling out like last time.

"They're on board completely," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List. "They see the authenticity of the thing, and everybody's on board from Boehner to the committee chairs to the rank-and-file pro-life leaders."

Investigators still may not obtain proof Planned Parenthood did anything illegal. But they now have a video obtained by undercover abortion opponents, which features a top Planned Parenthood director discussing how some abortion doctors collect fetal organs for donations to biomedical companies.

The footage features a lunch meeting with Planned Parenthood Director of Medical Services Deborah Nucatola and two actors posing as employees of a human biomedical firm that collects and sells human tissue to researchers.

As she eats salad and sips wine, Nucatola talks about how she and other doctors are careful to keep certain organs intact during abortion procedures so they can later be donated, which Republicans say may prove they carry out illegal partial-birth abortions.

There's also a question of whether Planned Parenthood affiliates profit from the donations, which would be illegal. The group has said clinics are reimbursed only for the costs of collecting and transporting the tissue, and Nucatola appears to affirm that in the video as well.

Stearns used to head oversight for the Energy and Commerce Committee before losing his seat in a 2012 primary election. Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania now holds that spot, and he will be heading up one of the investigations. Aides say it's unlikely any hearings would be held until after lawmakers return from August recess.

The House Judiciary Committee also will investigate Planned Parenthood, although a spokesman wouldn't offer any specific timeline for hearings or releasing findings.

Whether or not Republicans find anything illegal, the video — in which Nucatola discusses harvesting body parts such as lungs and hearts — gives them an opportunity to highlight the abortion procedure itself, which they hope will prompt a visceral reaction among voters.

"This is bizarre," said Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa. "This is a new low where … they talk about getting fresh body parts. This is very gross, and I'm hopeful all of this will be fully exposed."

"This just seems to be a completely new set of potential ethical and legal violations," said David Christensen, vice president of government affairs for the Family Research Council.

Stearns started his investigation in fall 2011, partly to look at whether Planned Parenthood was illegally using federal dollars to pay for abortions.

That did lead to some big fallout, causing Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure to announce it would pull funding from Planned Parenthood for mammograms because the group was under congressional investigation — although Komen quickly reversed the decision under heavy fire.

But Stearns never held a hearing or released any major findings. While he blames leadership for the stalemate, anti-abortion activists who were following the investigation say privately that staff was never able to find evidence Planned Parenthood had broken any laws.

Then, nearly a year after he started the investigation, Stearns lost his seat in a primary race. When his tenure ended six months later, so did his efforts. Christensen said he hopes the next investigation won't be a "flash in the pan."

"We have every reason right now to believe that Speaker Boehner, McCarthy and [Majority Whip Steve] Scalise intend this for the purpose of making sure the federal laws haven't been violated," Christensen said.