Capitol Alert

Kamala Harris to review group behind Planned Parenthood abortion videos

Kamala Harris
Kamala Harris AP

California Attorney General Kamala Harris will review whether the nonprofit organization behind controversial Planned Parenthood videos violated state law, her office said in a letter Friday.

Four Democratic congresswomen on Wednesday asked Harris and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to determine if officials from the Irvine-based Center for Medical Progress broke any laws when they posed as workers for a biotech company while recording Planned Parenthood physicians without their consent.

Reps. Jan Schakowsky, Zoe Lofgren, Jerry Nadler and Yvette Clarke cited reports that founder David Daleiden filed paperwork to create a phony entity. They also asked the state’s top law enforcement official to look into possible violations of the Invasion of Privacy Act, which bars recording people without their permission.

“We will carefully review the allegations raised in your letter to determine whether there were any violations of California law,” Harris, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, wrote in a reply Friday.

“This office will also review any materials filed by the Center for Medical Progress with the Attorney General’s Registry of Charitable Trusts to determine whether the organization violated laws including, but not limited to, our registration and reporting requirements.”

The videos, in which officials from Planned Parenthood discuss the price and delivery of fetal body parts, have renewed debate about abortion and rocketed the issue into the 2016 presidential race. GOP-led congressional committees are looking into whether Planned Parenthood is profiting off of aborted fetuses.

On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved to speed up legislation by Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky to withhold federal funding from Planned Parenthood. Paul and fellow GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz have been among the most vocal on the subject since the videos began.

Planned Parenthood contends the footage was “heavily edited” and falsely depicts the organization’s tissue-donation programs that support lifesaving scientific research. Democrats, including Harris, have come to its defense over efforts to strip its funding.

Speaking in South Carolina, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said Planned Parenthood has been under siege for years, calling it “an attack against a woman’s right to choose, to make the most personal, difficult decisions that any woman would face, based on her faith and the medical advice that she’s given.”

The Center for Medical Progress’ latest video features a Planned Parenthood official apparently negotiating a fee for fetal tissue for medical research while its first offering involves a physician talking about various precautions a doctor might take while performing an abortion to carefully preserve body organs.

Daleiden, indicating his group has more clips to come, said his investigation has uncovered truths about “the gruesome and horrific practices of partial-birth abortions and selling baby parts taking place throughout their organization.” He could not be reached for comment on Harris’ inquiry.

Lynch has said the Justice Department would review all the information surrounding the videos and determine what, if any, steps to take.

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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