Planned Parenthood says Texas launches politically charged document hunt

By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Texas sent agents to Planned Parenthood facilities on Thursday seeking documents, the group said, calling it a "politically motivated" move that comes on the heels of the state's Republican leaders barring it from receiving Medicaid money.

Members of the Texas Office of the Inspector General made unannounced visits at Planned Parenthood health centers in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio, staying in some cases for several hours and giving Planned Parenthood 24 hours to deliver thousands of pages of documents stored at its facilities across the state, the organization said.

The Inspector General Office declined to comment, as did health officials. Inspector General agents were seen on local news reports entering a Planned Parenthood facility in San Antonio.

Texas, the most populous Republican-controlled U.S. state, said it would launch a probe of Planned Parenthood after the release of videos in July by anti-abortion activist group Center for Medical Progress in which a Planned Parenthood official is seen talking about transactions involving fetal tissue.

“We believe this is a fishing expedition," Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region Chief Executive Officer Ken Lambrecht told a news conference in Austin, calling the request "politically motivated."

Lambrecht said Texas had requested what Planned Parenthood sees as unnecessary information such as the home addresses of all its employees as well as their salaries and bonuses.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said this week: "The gruesome harvesting of baby body parts by Planned Parenthood will not be allowed." But the state has so far released no evidence of illegal activity by the group.

Planned Parenthood, which has denied any wrongdoing, accused Abbott of grandstanding in launching the searches.

In a letter to Planned Parenthood clinics in the state this month, Texas health officials said all funding from Medicaid, the government healthcare program for the poor, was being cut because of what it characterized as program violations captured on the videos.

Arkansas and Louisiana, two neighboring states that have launched similar moves to cut state Medicaid funding, have been on the losing end of federal lawsuits, with judges blocking their attempts to halt funds.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, former Hewlett-Packard Chief Executive Officer Carly Fiorina and other Republican U.S. presidential candidates have generally called for defunding Planned Parenthood, while Democratic hopefuls have supported the organization.

Planned Parenthood announced earlier this month it would no longer accept reimbursement for fetal tissue donated for research following abortions.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin and Lisa Maria Garza in Dallas; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Peter Cooney)