OKLAHOMA CITY — Recently released videos that show a Planned Parenthood official discussing the distribution of fetal body parts are being used by anti-abortion advocates in Oklahoma to seek political contributions and bolster support for legislation to further restrict abortion.
Randy Brogdon, the newly elected chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party, sent an email on Thursday soliciting donations to "help us to end abortion in Oklahoma." He also urged the governor to call a special session to outlaw abortion altogether and shut down Planned Parenthood, which operates four health clinics in the state.
"It is time for Republicans to stand for the principles we claim to have and stop the killing of the unborn," Brogdon wrote. "The majorities of Oklahomans will support this bold action, but it will take someone to lead the fight."
The videos show Planned Parenthood officials meeting with people posing as buyers of fetal tissue. Federal law prohibits the commercial sale of fetal tissue, but allows not-for-profit donation of tissue if the women who underwent abortions give their consent. Planned Parenthood contends that the payments pertain to reimbursement for the costs of procuring the tissue — which is legal.
"The real agenda of these groups is to ban abortion and cut women off from care at Planned Parenthood," said Suzanna de Baca, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, which operates a clinic in Tulsa. "These insidious videos are just one more example of how low they will stoop."
Gov. Mary Fallin didn't indicate any plans to call a special session, but referred to the videos as "sickening." She also suggested an outright ban on abortion wouldn't be likely.
"Clearly, I don't want Planned Parenthood to perform any abortions in Oklahoma, regardless of how those abortions are paid for," Fallin said in a statement. "However, as any pro-life activist will tell you, the biggest hurdle to protecting life in this country is the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Roe v Wade, which blocked states from passing total bans on abortion."
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. James Lankford, a Baptist minister and fierce abortion opponent, has introduced a bill in the U.S. Senate that would end all federal funding for Planned Parenthood unless the organization stops performing abortions.
"The recent videos uncovering Planned Parenthood's inhumane abortion practices have hit a nerve with many Americans," Lankford said, adding that the organization receives more than $500 million each year.
Most of the services Planned Parenthood provides are not abortion-related, such as birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and vasectomies for men, de Baca said.
"In addition, we are the preeminent provider of health and sexual health education programs that help lower the risk of sexually-transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies," de Baca said.
Oklahoma legislators routinely pass some of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the country, although many have been overturned by the courts as unconstitutional.
A bill passed last year that would require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital was temporarily blocked by the state Supreme Court while a district judge mulls evidence in that case. The plaintiff in that case, Dr. Larry Burns of Norman, who performs nearly half of the abortions in the state, maintains he will have to close his practice if the law goes into effect.
Follow Sean Murphy at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy