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A group called The Center for Medical Progress is accusing Planned Parenthood of illegally selling fetal body parts attained from abortions. They're making their case with a sting video. On Capitol Hill, the House Judiciary Committee says it will investigate Planned Parenthood for its part. Planned Parenthood says it's the victim of deceptive editing and false claims. NPR's Jennifer Ludden reports.
JENNIFER LUDDEN, BYLINE: The video shows Planned Parenthood senior director of medical services at a restaurant lunch. Between sips of red wine and bites of food, Deborah Nucatola talks casually about the fetal body parts most in demand.
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DEBORAH NUCATOLA: A lot of people want intact hearts these days because they're looking for specific nodes.
LUDDEN: Intact hearts she says, lungs and especially livers.
NUCATOLA: I'd say a lot of people want liver. And for that reason...
LUDDEN: It's hard to understand after that, but she goes on to say most providers will do this under ultrasound guidance so they'll know where they're putting their forceps. The video was taken a year ago by the activist group Center for Medical Progress which had two people pose as employees with a biotech company. In a highly edited version released Tuesday, the video insinuates that Planned Parenthood is illegally selling the body parts.
Planned Parenthood did not respond to requests for an interview but in a statement, spokesman Eric Ferrero denies the allegations. He says clinics, quote, "help patients who want to donate tissue for scientific research just like every other high-quality healthcare provider." Ferrero says payments are only for the actual cost associated with that.
JOHN ROBERTSON: That is acceptable under federal law.
LUDDEN: That's John Robertson, a bioethicist at the University of Texas. He says fetal tissue has been harvested for medical use for decades helping to develop vaccines and find treatments for Parkinson's disease, diabetes and other conditions.
ROBERTSON: This would not be done unless there's good, useful research being done. Yeah, they're not just playing around with this stuff.
LUDDEN: Robertson says he realizes the whole practice sounds gruesome, but he says even performing an abortion in a way that preserves intact organs for research is perfectly legal. David Daleiden is with The Center for Medical Progress which made the video. He calls the practice incredibly disturbing.
DAVID DALEIDEN: I want to see - and I think most Americans who see these video tapes want to see - Planned Parenthood held accountable for activity that's criminal, activity that is troubling and disgusting to most Americans and activity that's funded with taxpayer dollars.
LUDDEN: It's a theme a number of Republican presidential candidates have picked up on. Here's Scott Walker today in South Carolina.
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SCOTT WALKER: In case you haven't seen this awful, outrageous, disgusting video, we defunded Planned Parenthood in our state, and we passed pro-life legislation.
LUDDEN: The House leader who announced an investigation into Planned Parenthood also called again for a federal ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Meanwhile, the video's backer says he has lots more secret recordings and plans to roll them out in coming months. Jennifer Ludden, NPR News Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.