Presidential hopeful Gov. Bobby Jindal launched a state investigation Tuesday into the operations of Planned Parenthood, based on reports alleging sale of fetal body parts from abortions.
Planned Parenthood has two facilities in Louisiana, neither of which perform abortions. The New Orleans and Baton Rouge operations provide well-woman exams, cancer screenings, pregnancy testing and counseling. It plans to apply for a license to operate an abortion clinic at a facility under construction in New Orleans.
Jindal’s action came in response to a video released by an anti-abortion group called the Center for Medical Progress. It’s unclear to what extent the video, purportedly shot by two undercover actors, has been edited. The video was circulated primarily on conservative news sites and anti-abortion sites on Tuesday.
The video appears to show a New York-based Planned Parenthood Federation of America senior director describing how some employees are, according to Jindal, “actively engaging in illegal partial birth abortion procedures and attempting to conduct these abortions so that they leave body parts intact so they can later be sold on the open market.”
A Planned Parenthood Federation of America official said Tuesday that the tape “falsely portrays” a tissue donation program that exists at several of its health centers.
“Today’s video of a Planned Parenthood official discussing the systematic harvesting and trafficking of human body parts is shocking and gruesome,” the unabashed anti-abortion Jindal said in a news release issued by his office.
“This same organization is seeking to open an abortion clinic in New Orleans. I have instructed Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals to conduct an immediate investigation into this alleged evil and illegal activity and to not issue any licenses until this investigation is complete,” Jindal said. “I am also asking the FBI to assist DHH in investigating this alleged criminal activity by this organization,” he said.
Jindal press spokesman Doug Cain said DHH will investigate Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast — the affiliate that plans to build an abortion clinic in New Orleans. “We are asking the FBI to assist us, as some of the information may not be available to us or in our jurisdiction,” Cain said.
Cain said the video indicates affiliates around the U.S. are engaging in the practice. Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast covers Louisiana and Texas. Texas facilities offer abortions.
“It is important DHH investigates the current activities of the affiliate along with its planned activities for the facility to ensure it is not currently engaging in illegal practices or planning to do so,” he said.
Planned Parenthood’s Louisiana state director Melissa Flournoy did not address the Jindal probe in a statement issued late Tuesday. But she addressed the attempt to block the New Orleans facility.
“Make no mistake: This health center will open, and Planned Parenthood will do everything we can to provide care for the women and men of Louisiana who rely on us,” Flournoy said.
Planned Parenthood national released a lengthy statement in which it decried the “heavily edited, secretly recorded videotape” being promoted by an anti-abortion group.
“At several of our health centers, we help patients who want to donate tissue for scientific research, and we do this just like every other high-quality health care provider does — with full, appropriate consent from patients and under the highest ethical and legal standards,” said Eric Ferrero, PPFA vice president for communications.
He said there is no financial benefit for tissue donation for either the patient or Planned Parenthood.
On a trip back to Louisiana last week, Jindal emphasized his anti-abortion commitment at the National Right to Life’s annual convention in New Orleans. Jindal blasted “Republican smart guys” in Washington who think culture issues are a “distraction” and issued a call to arms to members of the anti-abortion community to go out and convince more Americans to oppose the procedure. “If the Republican Party cannot make defending the defenseless into a winning issue, they should just close up shop.”
Louisiana Right to Life executive director Benjamin Clapper applauded Jindal’s leadership in launching the probe.
“We do not need this type of illegal business in our state,” Clapper said in a statement. “If this is what Planned Parenthood intends to do at their abortion facility in New Orleans, Louisiana does not want any part of it.”
Planned Parenthood is constructing a $4.2 million, 8,000-square-foot building on South Claiborne Avenue in New Orleans. Construction restarted last March after almost a year’s delay prompted by the Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans’ opposition and anti-abortion protests.
DHH had initially rejected efforts to establish an abortion clinic at the facility, saying proposers had not demonstrated a need. Planned Parenthood refiled documents, pressing its point. DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert then did an about-face, rescinding the requirement for a facility need review. That opened the door for Planned Parenthood to apply for an abortion clinic license. It has not yet done so.