Fears on the left growing for Planned Parenthood

Critics of Planned Parenthood on Tuesday released a second secretly recorded video related to fetal parts, putting the group on the defensive and spurring fears on the left of a new ACORN scandal.

The new video shows Dr. Mary Gatter, a Planned Parenthood official, apparently negotiating the price of fetal tissue for medical research. The Center for Medical Progress, which is behind the video, says it shows Planned Parenthood illegally profiting off the sale of fetal organs.

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Planned Parenthood rejects that claim. In both videos, the officials in question say they are looking for compensation for expenses, not profit.

But there are also embarrassing statements in both videos that are painting the organization in an unflattering light.

At one point in the latest video, Gatter jokes, “I want a Lamborghini,” when negotiating prices. She also refers to using a “less crunchy” technique for keeping fetal body parts intact. In the first video, the group’s senior director of medical services, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, is heard candidly describing the uses of fetal organs in between sips of wine and bites of salad. 

“Once again we are at a loss for words by the brazen manner in which Planned Parenthood employees casually discuss the harvesting of aborted babies’ tissue and organs,” Rep. Diane BlackDiane Lynn BlackGOP lawmaker introduces bill to crowdfund border wall Budget chairman Womack eyes appropriations switch Black: Corker should ‘just sit back and be quiet’ MORE (R-Tenn.) said in a statement. “These videos give us a window into the soul of the big abortion industry and expose their past statements as flat-out lies.”

The growing firestorm over the footage is alarming supporters of abortion rights.

Planned Parenthood’s largest corporate donor, liberal group Credo, is warning that the drip-drip of damaging footage could lead to a sequel to the ACORN scandal in 2009.

In that campaign, conservatives used hidden cameras to produce viral videos that suggested officials at the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) were advising people masquerading as a prostitute and a pimp on how to circumvent tax laws.

The nonprofit group, which had been involved in voter registration drives, disbanded after months of negative publicity.

“We saw what happened with ACORN, and it happened so fast and it happened without enough pushback from Democrats, and our goal is to make sure that doesn’t happen again,” said Heidi Hess, campaign manager for Credo.

“It does have that feeling,” Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerThe ‘bang for the buck’ theory fueling Trump’s infrastructure plan Kamala Harris endorses Gavin Newsom for California governor Dems face hard choice for State of the Union response MORE (D-Calif.) said when asked about the comparison to ACORN. “When people come and secretly tape you, it’s a pretty low form of harassment in my opinion.”

Planned Parenthood appears to be grasping for a strategy in responding to the now-viral videos. The Center for Medical Progress promises more footage is on the way.

Last week, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards apologized for the “tone and statements” of the medical officer filmed in the first video while defending the larger work of fetal tissue donations.

Days later, Planned Parenthood shifted to offense, accusing its opponents of more than a decade of illegally recording the group and attempting to gain access to private facilities.

Since the first video surfaced, Planned Parenthood has released more than a dozen pages of attack points against the Center for Medical Progress and its head, David Daleiden, with the help of a public relations firm.

Congressional Democrats, while defending Planned Parenthood, have largely shied away from discussing the videos except when taking questions from reporters.

Credo launched a petition on Tuesday calling on Democrats to speak out more forcefully in Planned Parenthood’s defense.

Asked about the videos at a press conference, Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidMcConnell not yet ready to change rules for Trump nominees The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by CVS Health — Trump’s love-hate relationship with the Senate Trump to press GOP on changing Senate rules MORE (D-Nev.) turned to a prepared statement, saying he wanted to be “precise” in his language.

“These politically motivated videos raise questions, but nothing I’ve seen indicates that Planned Parenthood violated federal law,” Reid said.

He argued fetal tissue research has long been important, citing its role in the development of the polio vaccine, and said the videos “should not take away from the important work Planned Parenthood does.”

The political furor over the videos is animating the 2016 Republican presidential race and bleeding into the Senate’s work on a highway bill.

Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGOP senators introduce Trump's plan to claw back billion in spending Pro-Trump super PAC raises .5 million in 6 weeks Trump has exposed Democratic hypocrisy on prison reform MORE (R-Texas) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGOP senators introduce Trump's plan to claw back billion in spending Pro-Trump super PAC raises .5 million in 6 weeks Trump has exposed Democratic hypocrisy on prison reform MORE (R-Ky.) are planning to force a vote on defunding Planned Parenthood as part of the highway debate.

Planned Parenthood spent $105 million in federal funds in 2012, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. That is part of roughly $1 billion in spending overall for the group.

So far, leading Republicans, such as Sens. John CornynJohn CornynPrison reform is worth fighting for in the Senate GOP-Trump trade fight boils over with threat to cars Republican leader: ‘For all practical purposes’ there’s no difference between an FBI informant and a spy MORE (Texas) and James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeFive takeaways on the canceled Trump summit with Kim Senate panel unanimously approves water infrastructure bill Defense bill moves forward with lawmakers thinking about McCain MORE (Okla.), have dismissed concerns that political battles such as those over Planned Parenthood could upend the legislation.

“This thing is going to pass, and the president’s going to sign it,” Inhofe said after the bill was unveiled Tuesday.

When asked about the Planned Parenthood amendment, Cornyn said it would be one of many, ranging from the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank of the United States to the security of military recruitment centers. Many of those, he said, are meant to “just lay down a marker for future efforts.”

Senate Republicans are also speeding up the timeline to consider a ban on late-term abortions, which groups such as the Susan B. Anthony List argue would address the issue of fetal tissue by limiting its availability.

Planned Parenthood says it has weathered this sort of storm before.

In 2011, the group was targeted by an undercover video from Live Action, a pro-life advocacy group led by some of the same activists involved in the new operation.

That video showed a Planned Parenthood clinic director in New Jersey dispensing advice to a couple on how to obtain services for illegal immigrant prostitutes and child sex workers. That official was fired within days as the group faced a national uproar.

At that time, just two states called for investigations into the video. The House Energy and Commerce Committee also led an investigation, “but then nothing ever came of it,” recalled one of the committee’s top Democrats, Rep. Diana DeGette (Colo.).

In response to the most recent videos, at least eight states have launched investigations into Planned Parenthood. Two congressional committees, including Energy and Commerce, have also announced probes.