Justice Dept. moving to probe Planned Parenthood over fetal tissue practices

Justice Dept. moving to probe Planned Parenthood over fetal tissue practices

The Justice Department is moving to investigate Planned Parenthood over the organization's fetal tissue practices, according to a letter sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

In the letter obtained by The Hill, the department requests unredacted documents from the panel's 2016 probe into Planned Parenthood over claims that the organization profited off the transfer of tissue and body parts from aborted fetuses to research firms.

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Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley: Dems 'withheld information' on new Kavanaugh allegation Feinstein calls for hold on Kavanaugh consideration Grassley releases letter detailing Kavanaugh sexual assault allegation MORE (R-Iowa), who chairs the committee, referred Planned Parenthood to the FBI last December, saying at the time that his committee had uncovered enough evidence for the FBI to investigate the claims.

The Hill reported last month that the FBI had asked the Senate for documents it obtained from abortion providers, signaling that agents may be investigating the organization.

The letter sent Thursday states that the Justice Department intends to conduct a "thorough and comprehensive assessment" of Grassley's report.

"At this point, these records are intended for investigative use only," adds the letter sent by Stephen Boyd, the assistant attorney general for legislative affairs.

News of the letter was first reported by The Daily Beast.

In 2015, videos released by the conservative activist group Center for Medical Progress showed Planned Parenthood staffers discussing procurement of "intact" and partial fetuses in exchange for compensation for expenses.

Publication of the videos led to a national showdown between Democrats and Republicans over government funding for Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood blasted claims about its tissue practices as "baseless" in a statement last month, arguing that the investigation was part of a "widely discredited attempt" to shut down abortion care at the organization.

“Planned Parenthood strongly disagrees with the recommendations of the Senate Republican staff to refer this matter to the Justice Department, especially in light of the fact that investigations by three other Congressional committees, and investigations in 13 states including a Grand Jury in Texas, have all shown that Planned Parenthood did nothing wrong,” said Dana Singiser, vice president of government affairs for Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

“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,” she added.

Updated: 9:57 p.m.