As 7th 'Sting' Video Is Released, a Look at State Investigations Into Planned Parenthood's Fetal Donation Practices

In the Center for Medical Progress’ seventh undercover video release, the topic is whether Planned Parenthood provides illegal custom abortions to harvest the most viable fetal tissue for research needs. (Video: YouTube)

This morning, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), an anti-abortion activist group, released its seventh undercover “sting” video — the third in its Human Capital series — targeting Planned Parenthood and the practices of fetal tissue donation and second trimester abortions.

The video begins with a Planned Parenthood representative describing how an abortion may be altered so that the fetus presents breeched, to better ensure the likelihood an intact fetal specimen. The video then, once again, returns to Holly O'Donnell. She allegedly was employed by StemExpress, a fetal tissue procurement “middle-man” company that procures fetal tissue specimens from medical practitioners for use in biomedical research projects, and worked for StemExpress out of several Planned Parenthood affiliate clinics in California. O'Donnell describes seeing a post-abortion, intact, 20-week fetus, where the heart was still beating. She also details the process by which she was instructed to procure organs from the fetus.

Requests from Yahoo Health to StemExpress to confirm that O'Donnell was in fact an employee of the company and worked out of Planned Parenthood clinics have not been returned.

This most recent video seems to be a part of a coordinated effort to make 20-week abortion bans an integral part of the 2016 presidential election and prompt more states to introduce 20-week bans themselves. The past week has yielded further evidence that Planned Parenthood clinics are free of wrongdoing when it comes to adherence with federal fetal tissue procurement regulations.

There are only two states in which Planned Parenthood affiliate clinics participate in fetal tissue donation programs: California and Washington.

And yet, to date, there have been 11 state-led investigations into Planned Parenthood following the release of the “sting” videos by the Center for Medical Progress: Texas, Ohio, Missouri (where there are hearings in the legislature only), Louisiana, Kansas, Georgia, Florida, Arizona (where it is qualified as inspections of clinics only, in compliance with current state law and procedure), Indiana, and Massachusetts.

Earlier this month, two of these investigations — in Indiana and Massachusetts —were closed after finding the non-profit women’s health care provider free of any wrongdoing.

In California, the state is instead investigating the Center for Medical Progress for having engaged in illegal activities — including setting up a shell corporation and the use of fake IDs — in service of their undercover work involving Planned Parenthood representatives.

Related: As 6th Video Is Released, Mounting Evidence That Planned Parenthood Attack Is Coordinated — and Years in the Making

The state investigations seemingly are to explore the possibility that, as alleged by the Center for Medical Progress, Planned Parenthood fails to be in compliance with federal law when it comes to the collection of donated fetal tissue specimens resulting from abortion. Fetal tissue donation is itself a long-standing and legal component of biomedical research in the United States. To be in compliance with federal regulations, health care providers supplying donated fetal tissue for medical research must be compensated for their costs (for collection, storage, and transportation) and are not to alter or change any medical procedures performed on patients who have elected to donate fetal tissue.

This past week, both Georgia and South Dakota have closed their internal state investigations, continuing the trend of finding Planned Parenthood free of wrongdoing.

In Georgia, Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald informed state Governor Nathan Deal that fetal tissue remains were being properly disposed of by Planned Parenthood’s affiliate clinics in the state, saying, “I have concluded that each (clinic) has proper procedures in place for burial or interment of remains and that all such facilities are currently following that portion of the law.” Fitzgerald looked at Planned Parenthood Southeast, in Atlanta, as well as four other abortion providers in Georgia in her investigation.

Deal has also rescinded his announcement earlier last week that he would ban Planned Parenthood from utilizing any state labs to provide sexually transmitted disease (STD) screening tests and to stop providing the organization’s clinics in the state with STD-screening kits testing services. Georgia ranks among the top 10 states for highest STD rates nationwide.

Related: Who Is the 26-Year-Old Man Behind the Planned Parenthood ‘Sting’ Videos?

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley asked for the state’s Health Department to investigate the women’s healthcare provider following the release of the Center for Medical Progress tapes. Last week, a spokesperson for the Department of Health affirmed that not only does Planned Parenthood, the only abortion provider in the state, not run a fetal tissue donation in South Dakota, but is also in compliance with all state and federal laws.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has also disclosed that none of the state’s three abortion providers participate in fetal tissue donation programs and that there have been no reports of the handling of fetal tissue in the state in over 15 years.

Meanwhile, Texas and Florida continue their investigations into Planned Parenthood’s activities in their respective states, with investigations turning up more questions than answers.

Last week, Yahoo Health reported on the strange circumstances surrounding the Texas investigation — and the seeming collusion between the Attorney General’s office and the CMP that allowed the Attorney General to view the CMP footage long before it was publicly released.

In Florida, state officials say that they have found three Planned Parenthood clinics performing second trimester abortions without a license to do so — the abortions in question all occurred at 13 weeks.

The issue, however, is largely one of semantics and whether the second trimester is defined as beginning in the 13th or 14th week of pregnancy. Florida officials insist that the 13th week of pregnancy is the start of the third trimester, and thus the Planned Parenthood clinics in questions are failing to adhere to state law, but this was not always the state’s stance.

A 2006 letter from Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) clarifies that in defining the first trimester of pregnancy, “the parenthetical ‘(the first 14 completed weeks from the last normal menstrual period)’ is equivalent to ‘the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.’” The letter notes that the words “’first 14 weeks from the last normal menstrual period’ are used interchangeably by physicians, and in fact describe the same time period with the same ending point.”

That is, 12 weeks after fertilization is equivalent to the 14 weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period.

Planned Parenthood earlier this week requested an emergency injunction to ensure that women who are still in their first trimester may still access abortion services.

As Kate Connors, spokeswoman for American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists confirmed: “It’s ‘absolute medical consensus’ to measure a pregnancy’s length from the last period. … No doctor would use anything but the last menstrual period.’”

The Florida citations against Planned Parenthood were announced two days prior to the first Republican presidential debate and the AHCA claim that their definition of the first trimester was changed to mean 12 weeks since the last menstrual period was made without any pubic announcement.

The AHCA, however, failed to find Planned Parenthood guilty of any violations of state or federal policy when it comes to fetal tissue donation and collection.

Today, however, comes news that Florida and the AHCA have confirmed that abortions performed within 14 weeks of a woman’s last menstrual period are categorized as being within the first trimester.

Thus, the three Planned Parenthood clinics in the state previously in question have also been cleared of charges of performing second-trimester abortions without a license to do so.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly named the states that have Planned Parenthood affiliates participating in fetal tissue donation programs. It has been updated to reflect the correct states participating in the programs.

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