Washington, DC - A federal investigation into the practices and the sale of fetal tissue by Planned Parenthood has been launched by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The DOJ first asked for unredacted documents from the Senate Judiciary Committee in November, according to Fox News, who first obtained the letter from DOJ Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs Stephen Boyd.
In the letter which formally requested the documentation, Boyd wrote:
"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."
Boyd's letter to Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein, D-CA., was sent after Grassley and Feinstein said they needed to receive a letter, with confirmation that the documentation would be used for investigative purposes.
The letter is a rare confirmation of a federal investigation, according to Fox News.
Boyd confirmed in his letter that the documents would be used for an investigation, and wrote, “At this point, the records are intended for investigative use only—we understand that a resolution from the Senate may be required if the Department were to use any of the unredacted materials in a formal legal proceeding, such as a grand jury."
The committee's final report, entitled “Human Fetal Tissue Research: Context and Controversy," was published in December, 2016. In the report, Grassley referred Planned Parenthood and other organizations to the DOJ and the FBI for investigation.
When the report was published, Grassley said that the committee had uncovered enough evidence that showed how abortion providers had transferred fetal tissue and body parts from aborted fetuses for research by charging amounts higher than they actually cost.
When Grassley recommended a criminal investigation, he said, “The report documents the failure of the Department of Justice, across multiple administrations, to enforce the law that bans the buying and selling of human fetal tissue. It also documents substantial evidence suggesting that the specific entities involved in the recent controversy, and/or individuals employed by those entities, may have violated that law.”
The committee evidence and now-official federal investigation resulted from a 2015 undercover operation by David Daleiden, leader of the pro-life Center for Medical Progress, and Sandra Merritt, an employee of the group, who both posed as fetal researchers and made undercover videos of themselves trying to buy fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood.
Recorded conversations included officials from Planned Parenthood and StemExpress, a California company that provides blood, tissue and other biological material for medical research, and which had received fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood.
At the time of the report, Planned Parenthood rejected accusations it violated any law or acted unethically. The group also disagreed with Grassley's recommendation for investigation, and said investigations by three other Congressional committees, and investigations in 13 states including a grand jury in Texas, had all shown that Planned Parenthood did nothing wrong, according to The Hill.
In response to announcement of an investigation, Dana Singiser, Vice President of Government Affairs for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said:
"These accusations are baseless, and a part of a widely discredited attempt to end access to reproductive health care at Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood has never, and would never, profit while facilitating its patients’ choice to donate fetal tissue for use in important medical research."