Pennsylvania is the latest state to investigate Planned Parenthood affiliates and find no wrongdoing involving the disposal or use of fetal tissue. In fact, the state's clinics do not even provide tissue for research, the inquiry found.
But the finding isn't satisfying Republican legislators critical of the organization.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America has been on the defensive since July, when antiabortion activists began releasing secretly recorded videos showing the organization's executives candidly talking about supplying fetal tissue donated by abortion patients for medical research.
Pennsylvania has three Planned Parenthood affiliates with 37 health centers, nine of which provide abortions.
"Although donation of fetal tissue is lawful under the [Pennsylvania] Abortion Control Act and federal law, our review has found that Planned Parenthood facilities in Pennsylvania do not participate in the practice," says a letter signed by Secretary of Health Karen Murphy and released Friday by the governor's office. "I want to be clear that the department has never received a complaint" accusing those facilities of violating fetal tissue disposal regulations.
Dayle Steinberg, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania, said that while the state's three affiliates do not participate in fetal tissue donation, "we support the value of this critically important practice."
The Health Department's review was dismissed as "falling woefully short" by State Sen. Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson). In July, he and House Speaker Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) wrote to the state attorney general to call for the investigation.
"This letter is an insult to anybody with any intelligence and any common sense," Scarnati said Friday. "It's an inadequate investigation and an inadequate answer. Those who respect life and the statutes of this state and the Constitution deserve a better answer."
The undercover videos, made by a group called the Center for Medical Progress, have raised questions about whether Planned Parenthood profits from the sale of fetal tissue. The family planning organization says it charges only to cover handling and other costs, which is legal under federal law.
Republicans in at least a dozen states have demanded inquiries. Some have also pushed to strip Planned Parenthood's Medicaid funding for cancer screenings, birth control, and other health services, despite warnings from federal officials that such actions may violate federal law.
Scarnati said a defunding effort may be coming in Pennsylvania.
"My phone is ringing off the hook with members of the Senate and constituents who want to defund Planned Parenthood," he said. "People are outraged."
While the furor continues, Planned Parenthood seems to be prevailing. Affiliates have been cleared by regulators in states including South Dakota, Massachusetts, Indiana, and Georgia.
Delaware is among states that have refused to investigate, citing lack of grounds. "There is no tissue donation program at Planned Parenthood to investigate," wrote the director of Delaware's division of public health.
This week, a Reuters poll found 69 percent supported federal funding for Planned Parenthood to provide "family practice services free of charge."
In her letter, Murphy said the Health Department reviewed records showing that Planned Parenthood contracts with "appropriate vendors to properly dispose of tissue."
In addition, she said that annual unannounced checks of Planned Parenthood facilities have "never found a violation of . . . provisions regarding the procurement or use of fetal tissue."