WASHINGTON (AP) — Planned Parenthood told Congress Monday that a secretly recorded video released last week by an anti-abortion group is fraudulent and part of a years-long pattern of illegal harassment aimed at prohibiting abortion.
In a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Planned Parenthood said it fell victim to a fake company called Biomax Procurement Services that posed as a buyer of human tissues. It was actually created by David Daleiden, an official of the group that released the video, and was engaged in “a campaign of corporate espionage” targeting Planned Parenthood, the letter said.
“A group of extremists who have intimidated women and doctors for years — in their agenda to ban abortion completely — are not ‘documenting’ misdeeds; they are trying to create them, quite unsuccessfully,” Planned Parenthood wrote to lawmakers.
In a show of defiance — at least for now — Planned Parenthood also told the House committee that it has not yet decided whether it will honor lawmakers’ request for a briefing by Dr. Deborah Nucatola, who speaks at length in the video about obtaining fetal tissue for research. Nucatola is the organization’s senior director of medical services.
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Planned Parenthood’s letter represents its fullest response so far to that video, which was released last week by the Center for Medical Progress.
Biomax activities included trying to induce Planned Parenthood centers to sell fetal organs for up to $1,600, the letter said, which would likely violate laws banning commercial fetal tissue sales. Those efforts were rejected, according to the letter.
In addition, the letter says Daleiden was involved in secretly recording Planned Parenthood staff and patients at least 65 times over the last eight years. That could yield thousands of hours of recordings that Daleiden could heavily edit to make false charges, the letter said.
Daleiden did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
But in a statement on its website, the center said Planned Parenthood’s initial decision against sending Nucatola to the House committee shows “contempt for the law against selling baby parts.” It said the center “follows all applicable laws” in its investigations and said it plans to release “more clear evidence” that Planned Parenthood profits from selling fetal organs.
Planned Parenthood wrote that Daleiden launched Biomax three years ago, even setting up exhibits at Planned Parenthood conferences. The group wrote that it still doesn’t know “the full extent of Biomax’s illicit conduct.”
Biomax’s activities included entering an area where fetal tissue is processed, where any recording would be “an extremely serious invasion of our patients’ privacy and dignity,” the letter said.
In last week’s video, Nucatola discusses how the group sometimes provides tissue from aborted fetuses for medical research. That conversation, over wine and lunch, was with two actors posing as purchasers of fetal organs and was recorded last July, according to the center.
A nine-minute excerpt the center posted online shows Nucatola saying her organization charges $30 to $100 for such procedures. But in the full version lasting more than two hours, she repeatedly says those prices only cover the procedures’ costs, are not for profit and are only performed with the patient’s consent.
Anti-abortion groups, members of Congress and some Republican presidential hopefuls have used the recording to assail Planned Parenthood, including accusing it of possible illegal activity such as harvesting fetal organs for profit. Planned Parenthood says it has done nothing illegal.
The Energy and Commerce Committee is one of three Republican-led congressional panels that has begun looking into the video. That panel has asked for a briefing this month by Nucatola.
But Planned Parenthood’s letter says it would send a team headed by a different official. Citing GOP politicians’ allegations of possibly illegal activity, the group said it was consulting attorneys about letting Nucatola appear and is “still assessing this aspect of your request.”
This story has been corrected to show that Daleiden, not Biomax, was involved in secret recordings over past eight years, according to Planned Parenthood’s letter.