Planned Parenthood has been swept up in a storm of controversy in recent weeks, after an antiabortion group started to release undercover videos of officials at the organization discussing how it provides organs from aborted fetuses for research.
Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told The Post in an e-mailed statement that the organization has notified the Justice Department and the FBI "that extremists who oppose Planned Parenthood's mission and services have launched an attack on our information systems, and have called on the world's most sophisticated hackers to assist them in breaching our systems and threatening the privacy and safety of our staff members."
"We are working with top leaders in this field to manage these attacks," she wrote. "We treat matters of safety and security with the utmost importance, and are taking every measure possible to mitigate these criminal efforts to undermine our mission and services."
The hackers told the Daily Dot that they used an attack that relies on exploiting bugs in the Web site’s database to gain access to information. They also claimed to have encrypted internal Planned Parenthood e-mails, but no such e-mails appear to have been leaked as part of the attack so far.
Additionally, there has been no indication that Planned Parenthood's patient information has been accessed.
A Web site where the allegedly hacked data was posted appears to claim ideological motivations, featuring a message in which the hackers say they are “seeking to reclaim some sort of lulz for the years and thousands of dollars that Planned Parenthood have wasted and made harvesting your babies.”
Laguens linked the alleged attack to a wave of antiabortion activities aimed at the organization. "Extremists have broken laws, harassed our doctors and patients, produced hack videos, and now are claiming to have committed a gross invasion of privacy -- one that, if true, could potentially put our staff members at risk," she said in her statement.
Earlier this month, an antiabortion group released two undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood executives discussing the method and price of fetal tissue and organ donations. The group, the Center for Medical Progress, has claimed that the videos prove Planned Parenthood is “selling” fetal tissues for profit, in violation of federal law. Planned Parenthood has strongly disputed that, saying that the discussion of fees related instead to legally allowed compensation for the costs associated with tissue donations.
The Center for Medical Progress's David Daleiden countered that Planned Parenthood's denial is a "desperate lie," and has promised to release more materials backing up the group's conclusions.
The videos have prompted a wave of government investigations into Planned Parenthood at the state and federal levels. California, separately, is investigating whether the group behind the undercover videos violated any laws.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee launched an investigation into the video’s claims this month. “This video is abhorrent and rips at the heart,” the Republican leaders of the committee said in a July 15 statement. "The committee will get to the bottom of this appalling situation.”
Sen. Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican who is running for president in 2016, told "Fox News Sunday" that he will push for Congress to defund Planned Parenthood. "I think the time is now to discuss whether taxpayer dollars should be going to such a gruesome procedure," he said over the weekend. "People are outraged by this, and I think the American people deserve to have a vote on it."
Planned Parenthood receives about $500 million worth of grants and reimbursements from the government per year. U.S. law has long prohibited federal funding for abortion, which makes up a small percentage of the services the organization provides.
Many viewers were shocked by the tone of the two officials caught on video discussing fetal tissues. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical research, was filmed discussing the details of fetal tissue donations with two undercover actors posing as biotech employees, over a lunch of salad and wine.
“I’d say a lot of people want liver,” she said in the video, “and for that reason, most providers will do this case under ultrasound guidance so they’ll know where they’re putting their forceps.”
In a second video, Mary Gatter, medical director for Planned Parenthood Pasadena and San Gabriel Valley, said at one point, “I want a Lamborghini,” while discussing the price of processing donations. She also discussed the ethics of altering an abortion procedure for the purpose of preserving fetal tissues.
Arthur Caplan, director of New York University’s Division of Medical Ethics, said in an interview with The Post last week that doing so would be a “classic violation” of a long-held, industry-wide standard for abortion providers in the United States.
“It’s ethically very dangerous” to change a procedure for the purpose of fetal tissue collection, he said. “You’re starting to put the mom’s health secondary.”
However, Caplan added that he was skeptical of the videos’ other claims: “They would like the charge to be ‘Planned Parenthood sells baby parts.' I’m not sure you get this from this tape.”
The controversy isn’t showing any signs of abating for Planned Parenthood, as the group behind the undercover videos has promised to release more in the coming weeks.
With just two videos released, and several investigations underway, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards went on ABC’s "This Week" to defend the organization.
“Planned Parenthood has broken no laws," she said, adding that she believes “the folks behind this, in fact, are part of the most militant wing of the antiabortion movement that has been behind, you know, the bombing of clinics, the murder of doctors in their homes, and in their — in their churches."
"That's what actually needs ... to be looked at."
This post has been updated.