In the wake of two controversial sting videos released this month, Wisconsin politicians are taking steps at the state and federal levels to target Planned Parenthood.
A video released by anti-abortion activists depicts a Planned Parenthood official explaining how the organization provides fetal tissue to researchers. The group behind the recording, the Center for Medical Progress, says it proves the organization is illegally selling fetal organs for a profit. A second video shows an official discussing the cost of facilitating the donation of fetal tissue and organs. The group has said it plans to release several more videos.
While it is illegal to sell fetal parts for profit, it's not illegal to transfer fetal tissue as long as the payments involved are only for the costs of processing and transportation. Women who have abortions may choose to donate fetal tissue for scientific research.
None of Planned Parenthood's clinics in Wisconsin offer tissue donation services.
In the last two weeks, Republicans in the state Assembly and Senate have requested a state investigation of Planned Parenthood and Assembly GOP leaders have called for their Democratic colleagues to return any campaign donations from the organization.
There is no indication the videos have any ties to Wisconsin, but other states, including Louisiana and Arizona, have launched similar calls for investigation.
On Monday, Rep. André Jacque, R-De Pere, announced plans for three bills stemming from the videos.
Two proposals would work together to eliminate "half or more of the funding each year that Planned Parenthood gets in Wisconsin." The third is an updated version of a 2013 bill that would ban the "sale, transfer or experimentation" of fetal body parts.
"I am appreciative of Gov. Walker’s continued commitment to defunding Planned Parenthood and I’ve been pleased to work directly with him in our past successes in doing so, including through the Title V and the Well Woman Programs. That said, there’s still a lot of work that can be done to cut off funds from Wisconsin’s, and our nation’s, largest abortion provider — both here in Wisconsin and through the budget at the national level," Jacque said in a statement. "I hope we take advantage of those opportunities. Planned Parenthood could not survive without the enormous influx of taxpayer support it receives from all layers of government to subsidize its life-destructive activities."
At the federal level, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, has also introduced legislation to ban the sale of aborted fetal tissue.
"Due to a poorly drafted section of federal law, Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics throughout the country are legally able to sell fetal tissue to research institutions," Sensenbrenner said in a statement. "This despicable practice is morally bankrupt, victimizes the defenseless, and increases profits for reprehensible organizations that have no regard for human life. This legislation is an important step forward in the ongoing efforts to protect innocent lives and fight on behalf of the unborn."
At the same time, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson joined a group of 49 senators in a letter asking Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to cooperate with current and future investigations into Planned Parenthood and to confirm the launch of "a thorough internal review of the compliance of the Department and Planned Parenthood — one of the Department’s grantees — with all relevant and applicable federal statutes, regulations, and other requirements."
Planned Parenthood said the lawmakers' actions are part of a series of "ongoing and unwarranted political attacks" on the organization.
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin government relations director Nicole Safar said the organization is proud of its record of caring for "women, men and families in 22 health centers across the state."
"As an accredited health care provider, we follow all local, state and national laws and regulations to ensure our patients remain safe, healthy and strong. Without Planned Parenthood, many would go without access to life saving cancer screens, referral treatment, birth control, STD tests and educational services," Safar said in a statement. "Despite these ongoing and unwarranted political attacks, Planned Parenthood remains committed to providing the compassionate, quality and safe medical care and education services that 1 in 5 women have come to rely on at some point in their lives. We all want strong, healthy families. With the public’s continued support we will prevail in removing politics from women’s health."