Planned Parenthood called on the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice on Monday for help managing cyber security after the reproductive health care group's website had been targeted by anti-abortion activists, the latest in a series of attacks by activists opposing women's access to safe reproductive health care.
The Daily Dot online newspaper reported Monday that a hacking group had gained access to Planned Parenthood's website databases with the names and email addresses of its employees.
Planned Parenthood executive vice president Dawn Laguens confirmed that "extremists" had attempted to hack the organization's systems but did not say whether they were successful.
"Extremists have broken laws, harassed our doctors and patients, produced hack videos and now are claiming to have committed a gross invasion of privacy — one that, if true, could potentially put our staff members at risk," she said in a statement.
The Daily Dot reported that the hackers said they plan to release the organization's internal emails soon. On their website, the hackers said they were “seeking to reclaim some sort of lulz for the years and thousands of dollars that Planned Parenthood have wasted and made harvesting your babies.”
The self-professed "social justice warriors" were referencing secretly recorded videos released earlier this month that showed Planned Parenthood officials discussing ways to perform abortions to preserve fetal tissue for research and the costs involved.
The cyberattack follows weeks of debate among lawmakers in which Republicans have sought to investigate and defund the organization after the release of the videos. Planned Parenthood receives nearly $500 million in federal funding each year.
On Monday, House majority leader Kevin McCarthy said Congress should immediately cut off funding for the group until investigations by two House committees are complete.
"These are serious questions and regardless of where anybody stands on the issue, knowing the doubt of what's going on here, is this a place that tax dollars should be spent?" he said at a news conference.
Last week, Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul began fast-tracking legislation to eliminate the group's federal funding, which could allow for a Senate vote as early as this week.
Al Jazeera and Reuters