Idaho Lawmakers Take on Planned Parenthood
BOISE (KTVB) - Dozens of Idaho lawmakers are planning for a fight in the 2016 legislative session. At issue - Planned Parenthood and regulations on the group's practices. The controversy began over the summer when videos surfaced, showing the harvesting of fetal tissue following abortions.
The group's Idaho branch says the practice does not happen in the state, and lawmakers here say they want to make sure it never does. Dozens of them are working together to introduce legislation addressing the issue in the next session.
Rep. Brent Crane (R - Nampa) says what Planned Parenthood is doing is a human rights issue.
"Literally, their body parts are being ripped apart and then torn and then sold," said Crane.
A group calling themselves Center for Medical Progress released the videos in July. It claims Planned Parenthood makes money from selling aborted fetal tissue.
"These aren't your run of the mill people who don't like abortion," said Crane.
"What we've come to find out is this isn't actually a medical organization, or a group really, it's three people," said Brass. "Some pretty intense anti-abortion activists."
Brass tells us the trio set themselves up three years ago to target Planned Parenthood. She says forensic reports show the videos are inaccurate.
"Highly edited and sort of spliced and diced together to be misleading about what we actually do at our health centers," said Brass.
She says the clinics that are harvesting fetal tissue have accepted money from researchers to recoup its own expenses. The actual sale, though, is against federal law and Brass says that's not what they do.
"It's still extremely disturbing," said Crane.
More than two dozen lawmakers asked Gov. Otter to launch an investigation, Crane said, but he chose not to when the organization assured him nothing like that was happening here. Lawmakers say they just want to make sure it stays that way.
"I think it will be an issue that will dominate the 2016 session, no doubt.," said Crane, who added that lawmakers are already putting together legislation.
"You're going to see issues of looking at the funding and you're going to see issues of looking at the practices of Planned Parenthood," said Crane. "We feel as Idaho legislators that this practice is deplorable and must be stopped, but I'm not going to go into specifics. I'm not going to give the opposition any kind of upper hand in this battle."
Brass says it's not a battle that should be had. She says there's really not much the state can do, especially when it comes to money. In 2014, Planned Parenthood of Idaho received $164,305 in Medicaid payments for services provided and $94,000 in Federal Title X dollars. No money came directly from Idaho.
"The only way the state is involved in funding Planned Parenthood services is through the Medicaid program and they can't really say we can't be a part of it," said Brass. "Federal Medicaid guidelines and rules say the patient has the freedom to pick their provider. To try and take us out of the program would actually put our entire Medicaid program and our federal dollars in jeopardy."
Planned Parenthood has taken steps, though, to hopefully soften the stance on the non-profit. Just announced two weeks ago, reimbursement will no longer be taken from the clinics that harvest fetal tissue.
"We know these attacks have nothing to do with fetal tissue donation, they have to do with ending abortion access in the United States," said Brass. "So now as we see these attacks continue it will be very clear that it doesn't have to do with this program because we no longer are taking reimbursement."
The bottom line, she says, is abortions are something Planned Parenthood will always offer and attacks won't stop that because they provide care no matter what.
Planned Parenthood says 8 percent of the services they provide are abortions and the rest is preventative care. Idaho lawmakers say they have no intention of trying to shut the organization down, they just want more regulations.