- Associated Press - Thursday, August 13, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday that questions from fellow Republicans prompted a letter assuring them that fetal tissue sales are illegal in Tennessee and explaining the state’s dealings with Planned Parenthood.

The letter was sent to the General Assembly’s Republican Caucus on Wednesday. In it, Haslam refers to recently released hidden-camera videos that raised the question of whether Planned Parenthood officials in other states were profiting from the sale of fetal tissue for medical research. Planned Parenthood says it charges fees solely to cover its costs.

Jeff Teague, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of East and Middle Tennessee, said the organization does not participate in tissue donation anywhere in Tennessee.

The letter says Haslam has heard from many caucus members who “share our shock and concern at the callous disregard for life displayed in undercover videos of persons employed by Planned Parenthood. You understandably want to make sure the activities discussed in these videos are not happening in Tennessee.”

He goes on to encourage the prosecution of anyone who violates state law by buying or selling fetal tissue.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Haslam said legislators have been asking about the state’s relationship to Planned Parenthood after hearing some governors who are running for president say their states have “totally defunded” the organization.

In the letter, Haslam explains in detail that Tennessee only provides money to Planned Parenthood indirectly as a subcontractor to other groups receiving state money for contraceptive services and HIV testing. Haslam’s administration tried to end those subcontracts in 2011 but was prevented from doing so by a federal court order.

Haslam says his administration ended any direct contracts with Planned Parenthood in 2011.

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