November 14, 2017
Cecile Richards was practically giddy when Republicans stumbled on their Obamacare repeal. After a string of attempts, the chance to defund Planned Parenthood had slipped through the GOP's grasp. And the country's largest abortion business made a quick escape. Or so it thought.
Thanks to David Daleiden and other pro-life leaders, the accusations that have dogged Richards's group aren't going away. And now, with a Trump Justice Department in place, the FBI is ready to do something about it. Disgusted by the group's grisly side business of selling baby body parts, the House and Senate both conducted their own investigations into Richards's secret money making scheme. What they found was enough evidence to refer the group for criminal prosecution.
Daleiden was the first one to pull the curtain back on Planned Parenthood's shop of horrors. In a series of videos, he showed staffers at the highest levels of the organization casually haggling over baby organ prices like trinkets at a local bazaar. Richards insisted the group didn't profit from the sales -- a claim completely debunked by the thread of invoices from StemExpress, one of its biggest buyers of unborn baby organs. "There are shipping costs," Dawn Laguens, the Planned Parenthood executive vice president told CNN. "It's not a fee. It's actually just the cost of transmitting this material to research institutions," Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards echoed to ABC's George Stephanopoulos.
A pile of evidence shows otherwise -- including invoices like this one from StemExpress, proving that it, not Richards's group, was paying to transfer the body parts. The bad news for Planned Parenthood got worse when StemExpress's Holly O'Donnell came forward. The former employee told Daleiden's Center for Medical Progress (CMP) that "Planned Parenthood never shipped anything, we did all the shipping." In this stunning video testimony, she insists, "Planned Parenthood's executive team repeatedly lied to the public and to the news media when they promised StemExpress was only paying them for 'shipping costs.'"
Experts like Brian Lennon, former assistant U.S. attorney, was adamant in his testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee last year that something was fishy. "We're talking about a price-per-tissue payment. That informs me that we're talking about the sale of a part -- and not some reasonable cost." Turns out, he was right. Grassley's committee followed the paper trail, the Hill newspaper points out. And it led straight where Holly O'Donnell said it would.
"In one example cited by the Senate report, a firm's own records show it paid $60 for an aborted fetus from a Planned Parenthood clinic, then transferred the various parts for $2,275 -- including the brain for $325, two eyes for $650, and a part of a liver for $325. The firm also charged additional fees for shipping and disease screening." On a regular basis, Grassley's team found, Planned Parenthood had "transferred tissue and body parts from aborted fetuses to firms for use in research by charging dollar amounts above their actual costs." The abortion group "involved in transferring fetal tissue have been free to receive substantial payment with impunity..." he concluded.
This week, the FBI, hot on Planned Parenthood's trail, asked the Senate for the documents it gathered from abortion providers, hinting that the tough times for Richards's group may be just beginning. While it braces for a possible criminal probe, states across the country are systematically doing what Congress fell just short of: defunding Planned Parenthood. One of those states, Arkansas, just won a monumental victory in the effort to end the forced partnership between taxpayers and Planned Parenthood, when the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals refused Richards's plea to rehear the case. Instead, it let the panel's ruling stand, giving Arkansas the right to block Planned Parenthood's access to the state's pool of Medicaid money. Like several Republican governors, Asa Hutchinson (R) ended Arkansas's forced partnership with the group in 2015, when CMP released its first string of undercover videos.
While the FBI chases down the truth, maybe Congress will find new energy to act. Planned Parenthood keeps insisting, "We're not in it for the money." If that's true, then it doesn't need ours.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.