Texas health investigators on Thursday served orders for hundreds of documents at Planned Parenthood offices across the state, including patient records and employee addresses.
The move came three days after the state announced plans to pull public funding from the organization, energizing the national debate over the nonprofit’s fetal tissue donation program.
“The breadth and depth of what was requested this morning was unprecedented,” Planned Parenthood representative Sarah Wheat told the Austin American-Statesman. “Today’s visits were clearly politically motivated. We’re all pretty surprised by how far the [state] is willing to go to try to shut down Planned Parenthood health centers.”
The subpoenas dictate that the files, dating back to 2010, must be delivered within 24 hours, Ken Lambrecht, president of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, told the newspaper.
“Planned Parenthood complies with every state law and regulation,” he said at a Thursday press conference. “We believe this is a fishing expedition.”
After anti-abortion activists released undercover videos this summer apparently showing Planned Parenthood employees discussing the logistics of fetal tissue donation to researchers, the Texas health department’s inspector general wrote a letter to all of the state’s affiliates, saying the organization was “no longer capable of providing medical services in a professionally competent, safe, legal, and ethical manner.”
(A spokesman for the Health and Human Services Commission told The Washington Post he could not comment on “any oversight or investigative activities” by the Office of Inspector General.)
None of the 11 states that launched investigations into Planned Parenthood, however, have found evidence supporting the organization broke any laws.
Earlier this week, Texas officials said they wanted to cancel the state’s Medicaid contracts with Planned Parenthood, indicating suspicion that public funds might be used to cover abortion services — a charge that Planned Parenthood denies.
The action would mean clinics would no longer be reimbursed for serving the roughly 13,000 low-income women who qualify for Medicaid and use the organization's services, a Planned Parenthood representative said. Federal courts recently blocked similar efforts in Louisiana, however, because states are not permitted to choose which organizations may receive reimbursement through the Medicaid program.
Planned Parenthood officials said they would take legal action against the Texas inspector general's decision.
"We will fight back against this outrageous, malicious, political attack in Texas with everything we’ve got, and we will protect women’s access to the health care they need and deserve," Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said this week in a statement.
She called the videos "thoroughly discredited."
Meanwhile, more footage from the anti-abortion activists that sparked the political clash over Planned Parenthood has emerged online.
A conservative journalist on Thursday released hours of covertly filmed videos targeting abortion providers that was barred from release by a court order.
Charles C. Johnson, editor of Gotnews.com, said he obtained the video from a source on Capitol Hill. His lawyers, he said on his Web site, have said he is free to release them, even though a federal judge earlier this year issued a temporary restraining order barring the release of the videos.
The videos were filmed at two National Abortion Federation conferences by David Daleiden, an anti-abortion activist who mounted a 30-month undercover investigation into Planned Parenthood. The federation asked for the restraining order because Daleiden, posing as a representative from a biomedical research company, signed nondisclosure agreements while at the conferences.
In a statement, the federation confirmed that the videos were filmed at its conferences but suggested that the leak may have come from elsewhere.
"These videos are protected by our temporary restraining order," said Vicki Saporta, president of the federation. "We note that, according to published reports, the individual behind these leaks is a personal friend of David Daleiden's, so we are not certain that it was the result of a congressional leak."
Daleiden and Johnson were friends in college. On his Web site, he denies that the leak came from Daleiden.