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Planned Parenthood

State Rep. Andre Jacque, R-DePere, is circulating a pair of bills that attempt to divert federal funding away from Planned Parenthood. Jacque and state Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, also have circulated a proposal to ban the sale of fetal body parts in Wisconsin. 

A Wisconsin lawmaker is calling for an investigation into the state activities of Planned Parenthood following the national release of a controversial video.

The video, released by anti-abortion activists, depicts a Planned Parenthood official explaining how the organization provides fetal tissue to researchers. But the group behind the recording says it proves the organization is illegally selling fetal organs for a profit.

In a letter sent to Gov. Scott Walker, state legislators and Department of Health Services secretary Kitty Rhoades, Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, called the video "heartbreaking" and "sickening." 

"In this video, (Planned Parenthood senior director of medical services Dr. Deborah Nucatola) casually describes how Planned Parenthood profits and collects these organs, and graphically describes the illegal abortion methods used on these children while she is eating and drinking," Kremer wrote.

Noting that selling body parts and performing partial-birth abortions are both illegal under state and federal law, Kremer said it "appears necessary to launch an investigation of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin to see if they too are violating both state and federal law."

"Wisconsin has the right to know if illegal partial birth abortions and the (selling of) unborn baby body parts is occurring right here in our state, and I ask the Secretary of the Department of Health Services, Governor Scott Walker, and my fellow legislative leaders to act quickly to ensure our state law is being obeyed," Kremer wrote.

Spokeswomen for the governor's office and DHS did not immediately respond to questions about the possibility of an investigation.

There is no indication the video had any ties to Wisconsin, but other states, including Louisiana and Arizona, have proposed or taken similar steps.

While it is illegal to sell fetal parts for profit, it's not illegal to transfer fetal tissue as long as the payments involved are only for the costs of processing and transportation. Women who have abortions may choose to donate fetal tissue for scientific research.

However, none of Planned Parenthood's clinics in Wisconsin offer tissue donation services.

"At several of our health centers, we help patients who want to donate tissue for scientific research, and we do this just like every other high-quality health care provider does — with full, appropriate consent from patients and under the highest ethical and legal standards," said Planned Parenthood Federation of America spokesman Eric Ferrero in a statement. "There is no financial benefit for tissue donation for either the patient or for Planned Parenthood. In some instances, actual costs, such as the cost to transport tissue to leading research centers, are reimbursed, which is standard across the medical field."

Ferrero accused the video of being misleading and lobbing false accusations.

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The California-based group behind the video, the Center for Medical Progress, is relatively new but has ties to other anti-abortion groups. 

"This is absolutely horrifying and disgusting. Planned Parenthood and the Democrats who vote to fund this organization owe the American people an explanation for these heinous, and possibly illegal, actions," Walker told BuzzFeed News on Tuesday. "Practices like this cannot be tolerated, which is why as governor, I defunded Planned Parenthood."

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin executive director Tanya Atkinson said Kremer's call for an investigation is part of a series of "ongoing and unwarranted political attacks" on the organization.

Kremer spearheaded the effort to pass a 20-week abortion ban in the Legislature, which Walker has promised to sign

"Wisconsin politicians who oppose women’s health access have seized this opportunity to rally their supporters and threaten PPWI's continued services," Atkinson said in an email. "Wednesday afternoon, one Wisconsin legislator went as far as to request a state investigation of PPWI. Despite the fact we don’t offer tissue donation services, the politician behind the call to investigate PPWI is a staunch women’s health opponent who is utilizing this latest smear campaign to harass and discredit PPWI in his effort to take away essential health care for women and families. Similar political threats targeting Planned Parenthood are to be expected in the near future by our opponents. We will not back down."

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Jessie Opoien covers state government and politics for the Capital Times. She joined the Cap Times in 2013 and has also covered Madison life, race relations, culture and music. She has also covered education and politics for the Oshkosh Northwestern.