(Update) Attorney General pursues Governor Ducey’s witch hunt against Planned Parenthood

Witch Hunt (wĭch′hŭnt′) n. An investigation carried out ostensibly to uncover subversive activities but actually used to harass and undermine those with differing views.

handmaids-tale_0“Cathi’s Clown,” Governor Doug Ducey, beholden to Cathi Herrod and her Christian Taliban at the Center for Arizona Policy for his election, decided to join the GOP witch hunt against Planned Parenthood over surreptitious videos made by fetus fetish Forced Birthers from the Center for Medical Progress discussing fetal tissue donations with Planned Parenthood representatives.

“Cathi’s Clown” sicked his abortion cops, led by state Health Director Cara Christ and Attorney General Mark Brnovich, on Planned Parenthood. (h/t image: The Handmaid’s Tale). Governor Ducey joins GOP witch hunt against Planned Parenthood.

Howard Fischer reports today, AG seeks OK for probe of fetal tissue sales:

The Attorney General’s Office is asking a federal judge to allow it to pursue an investigation fishing expedition into whether anyone in Arizona is violating state laws dealing with abortions and fetal remains.

In legal papers filed in federal court, Assistant Attorney General Maria Syms wants U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick to rule that his injunction barring the anti-abortion Center for Medical Progress from releasing more undercover videos does not apply to copies already being sought by prosecutors. Syms said her boss, Mark Brnovich, believes the injunction, unless amended, will impede his legal obligation to investigate whether state laws are being violated.

The Attorney General’s Office would not comment on what it is investigating other than to say it is a “possible violation of Arizona law.’’

But court documents obtained by Capitol Media Services confirm there is an active investigation: Judge Orrick specifically said a subpoena already has been issued by the state.

It remains to be seen, however, whether Brnovich will be able to get the videos he is demanding.

Following a hearing earlier this week, Orrick rejected arguments by Syms that federal courts cannot interfere with pending state investigations. But that’s not the end of it.

“The court recognizes that the Arizona Attorney General has an interest in the matter,’’ the judge wrote. And he agreed to look at the issue again after hearing further arguments from all involved.

That includes contentions by the National Abortion Federation, which sponsored the conferences where the videos were taken, that it and its member organizations would be harmed if more of them were released. But there also is a claim by the Center for Medical Progress that surrendering the videos under subpoena could implicate its Fifth Amendment rights against providing evidence against itself.

Exactly who or what Brnovich is investigating remains confidential.

On orders from Gov. Doug Ducey, the state Department of Health Services enacted emergency rules last month requiring abortion providers to disclose what they do with fetal tissue, including whether it is sold and to whom.

While the sale of fetal tissue for profit is forbidden by federal law, there is no similar prohibition in state statutes. There are, however, civil regulations which govern the procedure.

And Bryan Howard, president of Planned Parenthood Arizona, said his organization does not engage in such sales.

But a separate state statute makes it a crime to use any fetus or parts of it “in any manner for any medical experimentation or scientific or medical investigation.’’ The only exception is as “strictly necessary to diagnose a disease or condition in the mother of the fetus or embryo’’ — and only if the abortion was performed because of that disease or condition.

The donation of fetal tissue for medical experimentation is legal under federal law. Republicans Were For Fetal Tissue Research Before They Were Against It: in 1993, members of Congress on both sides of the aisle voted to legalize fetal tissue research, even in cases when the samples were obtained from legal abortion procedures, when they approved the National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act.

Donating tissue from aborted fetuses has been legal for decades. Scientists can use the biological material, which is a rich source of stem cells, to develop new ways to treat AIDS, spinal cord injuries, diabetes, cancer, and eyesight loss.

These are critical details that Howard Fisher leaves out of his reporting, and thus fails to provide necessary context. The state statute Fischer cites would suggest that the Attorney General’s office is looking into medical researchers doing research with fetal tissue, not Planned Parenthood, something that is legal under federal law.

The question of experimentation has taken on national significance since the Center for Medical Progress released undercover videos which appear to show Planned Parenthood executives and others, chatting with people at various conferences, discussing supplying tissue from aborted fetuses to firms doing medical research.

Last month, at the behest of the National Abortion Federation, Orrick issued a temporary restraining order barring further release of videos obtained at the organization’s conferences. The judge said there was enough evidence at this point to suggest that the Center for Medical Progress had violated agreements signed by all attending the conferences not to disclose what they heard or observed.

[So the only legally culpable party here is the Center for Medical Progress.]

But Syms said that order is delaying her agency’s investigation.

What “investigation” exactly are we talking about? Jim Nintzel of the Tucson Weekly reported in The Skinny column today:

Planned Parenthood Arizona President and CEO Bryan Howard said that Planned Parenthood Arizona has never participated in tissue-donation programs. Arizona law forbids the use of tissue from aborted fetuses in research except in narrow circumstances.

The Arizona Department of Health Services recently completed an investigation ordered by Gov. Doug Ducey into any tissue-donation programs. The investigation found that no abortion provider in Arizona has been participating in such programs. Arizona Department of Health Services Director Cara Christ also created an emergency rule that added four questions to a form that is filled out in the wake of any abortion in Arizona. The questions revolve around whether any tissue was donated; if no tissue was donated, the abortion provider doesn’t need any additional information.

Howard said he thought Christ “responded in a very professional way” but noted that the furor over tissue donation “has been a tragic sideshow.”

If the Arizona Department of Health Services’ investigation has already “found that no abortion provider in Arizona has been participating in such programs,” then who exactly is the Attorney General pursuing in this fishing expedition? Medical researchers doing research with fetal tissue?

Other states investigating Planned Parenthood in the wake of this smear campaign by Center for Medical Progress also have found no wrongdoing. Investigations Into Planned Parenthood Are Falling Totally Flat; State inquiries into Planned Parenthood turn up no Wrongdoing; Growing List Of Planned Parenthood Investigations Hyped By Conservative Media Clears Organization Of Any Wrongdoing: None of the videos released by the Center For Medical Progress include any evidence of illegal activity on Planned Parenthood’s behalf, and each of them have been found to be deceptively edited in order to leave out crucial context.

If the Attorney General’s office is engaging in a fishing expedition at the request of the governor, who clearly wanted to capitalize on this manufactured outrage of the conservative media entertainment complex for political reasons, that is unethical and that is the real scandal here.  This is the scandal that the media ought to be investigating.

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