Senators press Trump administration on pair of Planned Parenthood controversies
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More than two dozen U.S. senators asked the Justice Department Friday to expand its investigation into Planned Parenthood Federation of America's (PPFA) fetal tissue practices, the latest effort to push the DOJ about an investigation it has mostly kept under wraps since 2017.
A separate letter sent to the Treasury Department, requested an investigation into Planned Parenthood's use of funds from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), established by the CARES Act earlier this year.
"We urge you to investigate not only the extent to which Planned Parenthood was involved in the sale of fetal tissue, but also the disturbing descriptions by Planned Parenthood workers of infants born alive who were left to die or killed through organ harvesting," read the DOJ letter, signed by Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., and 27 of her colleagues.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who signed onto Friday's letter, requested in 2019 that the DOJ update his committee on the investigation. Since then, Center for Medical Progress president David Daleiden has released a series of exhibits from his civil trial with PPFA in an attempt to corroborate the accusations he leveled in his 2015 videos.
The abortion provider has denied selling or profiting off fetal tissue, which is a violation of federal law. But Daleiden argued otherwise when he released invoices which showed a PPFA affiliate assigning a per diem cost for body parts. Earlier this year, two other video releases shed light on how PPFA and others treated unborn children. Specifically, a PPFA executive describes an incident in which a child was born alive and died "seconds" after leaving the mother's womb.
In a statement to Fox News, Daleiden demanded accountability.
"The Department of Justice has vigorously prosecuted marginalized communities for selling eagle body parts, but DOJ continues to allow politically privileged groups like Planned Parenthood to traffick baby body parts without consequence," he said.
"Planned Parenthood's defrauding of $80 million from the PPP loan program shows criminality in the abortion industry will spread until they face justice under the law," Daleiden added. "After multiple Congressional criminal referrals, admissions on forensically authenticated undercover video and sworn deposition testimony ... the evidence demands beyond any reasonable doubt that Planned Parenthood and their business associates be held accountable for targeting vulnerable patients and selling their infant children like a commodity."
DOJ and Treasury did not respond to Fox News' requests for comment. But lawmakers are asking that each of them take steps to ensure the taxpayer-funded organization is held accountable for any wrongdoing.
The Treasury letter, signed by Loeffler and 28 of her colleagues and addressed to Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery Brian D. Miller, asks for "a thorough investigation of all PPP loans applied for and recieved by any Planned Parenthood affiliate, to determine how those affiliates were able to obtain PPP loans, and if any of their applications were submitted with information that was known or should have been known to be false, and make any civil or criminal referrals that you deem necessary and proper."
In the letter to DOJ, senators asked that FBI Director Chris Wray and Attorney General William Barr provide updates on the Senate's prior criminal referrals. "If no action has been taken on these referrals, provide an explanation as to why," the letter read.
It also requested a list of Planned Parenthood affiliates under investigation for illegal fetal tissue sales, as well as prosecutions for violations of the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act.
"President Trump and his administration have been unwavering in their efforts to protect life," the letter read. "Planned Parenthood's blatant disregard for legal protections for life is unacceptable, and we therefore respectfully ask that DOJ take all steps necessary to address Planned Parenthood's unlawful activities."
PPFA referred Fox News to a May statement that denounced criticism of accepting PPP money.
"[J]ust like other nonprofits and health care providers, this pandemic has had a significant impact on Planned Parenthood health centers’ ability to provide care," said Jacqueline Ayers, vice president of government relations and public policy. "Paycheck Protection Program loans have ensured health centers can retain staff and continue to provide patients with essential, time-sensitive sexual and reproductive health care during this crisis.
“This is a clear political attack on Planned Parenthood health centers and access to reproductive health care," Ayers added. "It has nothing to do with Planned Parenthood health care organizations’ eligibility for COVID-19 relief efforts, and everything to do with the Trump administration using a public health crisis to advance a political agenda and distract from their own failures in protecting the American public from the spread of COVID-19. It is also just the latest salvo in the Trump administration's long history of targeting Planned Parenthood, and trying to severely limit access to sexual and reproductive health care."