- Associated Press - Thursday, August 13, 2015

BOSTON (AP) - The renewed national focus on Planned Parenthood is highlighting Attorney General Maura Healey’s strong support of the group.

Planned Parenthood has come under scrutiny after anti-abortion activists released undercover videos that raised questions about whether the national organization was profiting from the sale of fetal tissue - something the group denies. The videos prompted one state lawmaker to ask Healey to look at Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts.

A week after completing a review that found the state group “fully compliant with state and federal law,” Healey fired off an email to her supporters criticizing what she described as political attacks on the organization, which offers health care services including abortions.

“I’ve had enough,” Healey wrote. “The latest attacks in Washington on Planned Parenthood are nothing new - they’re simply the most recent offensive in a decades-long campaign to cut off women’s access to health care.”

While anti-abortion supporters said they don’t doubt the conclusions of Healey’s review, they are questioning her close ties to the organization.

Planned Parenthood endorsed Healey during last year’s campaign and spent almost $1,700 supporting her candidacy; officials at the group also donated directly to her campaign account; and an image of Healey is featured on the organization’s Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund website with her quote: “Planned Parenthood’s endorsement was a game-changer for my campaign.” In June the group helped sponsor a “Sexual Health Lobby Day” at the Statehouse with Healey as featured speaker.

Healey, in an interview posted on the same website during the campaign, also described her commitment to the group in personal terms, saying the sister of one of her colleagues in the Attorney General’s office was shot and killed at Planned Parenthood in Brookline. In 1994, gunman John Salvi killed two receptionists and wounded five others at two Boston-area abortion clinics. Liam Lowney, brother of receptionist Shannon Lowney who was killed, oversaw victim witness advocates for former Attorney General Martha Coakley.

Anne Fox, president of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, said Healey’s vigorous defense of Planned Parenthood raises the appearance of a conflict of interest. Fox’s group isn’t associated with the activists who made the videos.

“I think she certainly should consider recusing herself if anything further about Planned Parenthood comes to her office,” Fox said. “In no way am I questioning her review. My concern is that she’s not the appropriate person to be doing it.”

Healey launched the weeklong review at the request of state Rep. James Lyons, an Andover Republican. Lyons said if he comes across any more information about Planned Parenthood that concerns him, he would take it again to Healey.

“I believe that the AG is an honest and hardworking attorney general,” he said.

Healey declined to comment further.

Planned Parenthood has denied profiting from the sale of fetal tissue and said it charges fees solely to cover its costs.

Healey said that while donation of fetal tissue is permissible under state and federal law, Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts doesn’t have a tissue donation program and there is “no evidence that PPLM is involved in any way in the buying or selling of tissue.”

In the same statement, Healey said she believes strongly in the group’s mission and “will fight to support Planned Parenthood and preserve the essential health services that they provide.”

A week later, Healey sent the separate email from her political account.

“This debate in Congress? There’s simply no ‘there’ there,” Healey wrote. “Let’s put this smoke-and-mirrors ‘debate’ to rest. Standing up for women’s health care means standing with Planned Parenthood.”

Tricia Wajda, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, defended Healey.

“She executed her responsibilities in the very way we would anticipate: diligently, thoroughly, and with integrity,” Wajda wrote. “These same attributes, combined with her record of championing women’s access to health care, are the very reasons the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund was proud to endorse Maura Healey for attorney general.”

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