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Planned Parenthood in Houston Targeted By Undercover Anti-Abortion Group

Two people from the Center for Medical Progress posed as biomedical researchers during April visit to Texas



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Since mid-July, a California-based anti-abortion group, the Center for Medical Progress, has posted two controversial undercover videos of Planned Parenthood executives in California discussing fetal tissue donation. Now Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, which has its headquarters in Houston, says it was also infiltrated by the same group.

Two people posing as biomedical researchers visited the Planned Parenthood in Houston in April, according to spokeswoman Rochelle Tafolla. The flagship clinic and regional headquarters is located off the Gulf Freeway near downtown.

“They came in to our health center, misrepresented themselves, used fraudulent identification to enter our building, all to obtain video that they then will go back and edit,” Tafolla said. “And what we’ve seen is they’re using it for shock value and to advance their political agenda.”

Tafolla says Sen. Charles Schwertner has seen a videotape made by the group, as have other legislators. Schwertner, a Republican, is chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services. The committee will hold a hearing Wednesday about Planned Parenthood and its involvement in fetal tissue research. 

Tafolla says it’s only fair that her organization also get to see the video before being asked to testify.

“We stand by our healthcare, we know exactly the high quality healthcare that we have provided for nearly 80 years, and we’d like to see what’s on this video,” she said.

Schwertner’s chief of staff, Tom Holloway, responded late Monday. Holloway said the video was in the hands of the Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton.

“The Texas Attorney General has granted limited legislative privilege to members of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services to review a video obtained by the Office of the Attorney General as part of their ongoing investigation into the activities of Planned Parenthood in Texas.  Committee members from both parties are currently reviewing the video and gathering all the relevant facts in advance of Wednesday’s scheduled hearing,” Holloway said in a statement.

Planned Parenthood has formally requested that Paxton’s office release the video prior to the hearing.

It’s illegal to sell fetal tissue, whether from abortions or miscarriages. But tissue may be donated and researchers may compensate clinics for costs such as storage and shipping.

Tafolla says the last time the Houston clinic donated fetal tissue was in 2011, and it was to researchers at UTMB in Galveston who were studying how to prevent miscarriage.

“In some cases, women who do that have said they feel like this is part of something they can do to advance medical research and perhaps help others,” Tafolla said.

Tafolla says Planned Parenthood follows all laws and regulations, and state officials should instead be focusing on the fraudulent tactics used by the Center for Medical Progress. If the group was secretly videotaping during its pre-arranged tour of Planned Parenthood in Houston, patient privacy laws could have been violated, Tafolla said.  

“These people and these groups, the Center for Medical Progress, have ties to radical groups like Operation Rescue, and individuals who are responsible and have been convicted of murdering physicians,” she added.

The Center for Medical Progress did not immediately return a call for comment. 

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