On Thursday, reports that the Department of Justice is investigating Planned Parenthood hinted that Trump's administration is bringing the women's health organization back into the spotlight. The DOJ is reportedly opening the investigation to determine whether or not it has sold fetal tissue in violation of federal law. The decision comes despite the fact that the 2015 undercover footage of Planned Parenthood employees supposedly trying to profit by selling fetal body parts was discredited over two years ago.
According to Fox News, Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs Stephen Boyd sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee requesting original documents from that committee's 2016 investigation into Planned Parenthood's handling of fetal tissue. The committee released the report that December. Boyd made it clear that the documents were being requested for "investigative use only."
The Department of Justice appreciates the offer of assistance in obtaining these materials, and would like to request the Committee provide unredacted copies of records contained in the report, in order to further the Department’s ability to conduct a thorough and comprehensive assessment of that report based on the full range of information available.
The conflict initially began in 2015 when two anti-abortion activists secretly recorded a video that, they claimed, depicted Planned Parenthood officials admitting to selling fetal tissue, which is illegal. Planned Parenthood said in response that, though some of its clinics donate fetal tissue for medical research, the organization never profits from those exchanges.
“Planned Parenthood has never, and would never, profit while facilitating its patients’ choice to donate fetal tissue for use in important medical research,” a Planned Parenthood executive told Fox News in a statement.
Those videos were found to have been heavily edited, and on top of that, the two "activists" behind the footage have been charged with violating California's privacy laws. One of the people behind the discredited videos, David Daleiden, has called the charges "bogus."
Then, in 2016, the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee carried out its own investigation into the subject. Boyd is now requesting documents from this investigation. In its final report, it claimed that three tissue-specimen companies — but not Planned Parenthood itself — had profited from fetal tissue sales. The chair of the committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley, then sent a letter to the Department of Justice and the FBI requesting further investigation.
Grassley wrote that the committee had a "reasonable suspicion" that Planned Parenthood employees "may have engaged in a conspiracy to violate fetal tissue law." However, he acknowledged that the committee "does not have all the details of what transpired between the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and these affiliates." In response, Planned Parenthood Vice President of Government Relations Dana Singiser released a statement insisting the organization had done nothing wrong:
Planned Parenthood’s standards have always gone above and beyond what the law required. As investigation after investigation has shown, Planned Parenthood has done nothing wrong. Senator Grassley’s report attempts to paint a nefarious picture of the simple re-formatting of a document—showing once again that there is no actual wrongdoing to point to.
In November, just shy of a year after Grassley sent his letter to the Department of Justice, The Hill reported that the FBI had formally requested original documents from the Senate Judiciary Committee's investigation into Planned Parenthood. At that point, it was clear a possible probe into Planned Parenthood was on the horizon.
This isn't the first time the Trump administration has delivered a blow to the organization that provides affordable reproductive health care and cancer screenings to millions women (and men) each year. And according to Boyd's letter, it won't be the last.