Planned Parenthood Federation of America defended its practices Thursday in a lengthy letter to Congress and included a report by experts that found undercover videos of officials discussing fetal tissue for research were heavily altered by anti-abortion activists.
Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens said the report supports the organization's claims that the secretly recorded videos were distorted to misrepresent conversations employees had with an anti-abortion activist posing as a biomedical company employee interested in buying fetal tissue.
The letter and report were the most detailed defense to date by Planned Parenthood, which has come under fire from conservatives since the California-based Center for Medical Progress began releasing the videos last month.
Four congressional committees have launched investigations into Planned Parenthood's practices, and lawmakers unsuccessfully tried to strip the organization of federal funding.
"These baseless and fraudulent attacks are part of a much bigger political agenda that we believe is harming and will harm women all across this country," Laguens said. "We will not let that happen."
The videos that include graphic images of tissue, organs and even a tiny arm, showed Planned Parenthood officials discussing in a businesslike way how they provide aborted fetal organs for research and what they charge for tissue.
Planned Parenthood's president, Cecile Richards, previously apologized for the "tone and statements." But she defended the organization in her letter to Congress, saying it did nothing illegal and calling the videos a "smear" on its reputation.
At issue is a federal law that prohibits abortion providers from profiting from the sale of fetal tissue, inducing someone to have an abortion to provide the tissue or altering the procedure in any way to harvest fetal tissue.
Only clinics in California and Washington provide the tissue for medical research, and they adhere to the federal laws and collect only $45 to $60 to recoup their costs, which is legal, the letter said.
The Center for Medical Progress claims the videos released so far show Planned Parenthood illegally sells and harvests organs.
Planned Parenthood said forensic experts found more than 40 instances where the videos were spliced. They also found conversations were taken out of context to change the meaning of what was said. Whole sections of the videos were missing from the meetings.
“A thorough review of these videos in consultation with qualified experts found that they do not present a complete or accurate record of the events they purport to depict,” the report said. It concluded that the Center for Medical Progress “edited content out of the alleged ‘full footage’ videos, and heavily edited the short videos so as to misrepresent statements made by Planned Parenthood representatives.”
Research firm Fusion GPS conducted the analysis for Planned Parenthood.
Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS said the video work was "sloppy at best" and that transcripts provided by the center were frequently inaccurate and erroneous. He said a thorough analysis wasn't possible without the original footage because the videos lost some of their digital information when they were compressed and posted on YouTube.
The activist who secretly recorded the video said in a statement that the absence of bathroom breaks or waiting periods in the video didn't change the meaning of the dialogue with Planned Parenthood’s officials.
"Planned Parenthood's desperate, 11th-hour attempt to pay their hand-picked `experts' to distract from the crimes documented on video is a complete failure," the center's founder, David Daleiden, said in a statement. "Planned Parenthood's abortion providers are far more honest about the brutal reality of their work than the paid political consultants at the national office."
Al Jazeera and The Associated Press