Months after the release of a series of videos exposing the seedy reality of Planned Parenthood's "fetal tissue transfer"—which involves the sale of fully intact limbs, organs, and even heads of aborted babies and, according to statements by PP doctors, sometimes required the altering of the abortion procedure, which is illegal—the Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services has finally opened an investigation into the organization's practice.

Republican presidential candidate Senator Rand Paul, who pushed hard for the investigation, announced the news Tuesday in a press release (full text below), explaining that IG Daniel R. Levinson "has opened an investigation, including a full audit into the compliance of HHS grantees with the fetal tissue regulations to determine whether there have been violations of the law and how the agency verifies compliance."

"Planned Parenthood selling body parts of the unborn demonstrates that the organization deserves not one penny more of our taxpayer dollars, and I am confident this investigation will give further proof of that."

Senator Rand Paul

In July, Paul requested a full investigation into Planned Parenthood's fetal tissue trade's "potential violations of federal law," but in August HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell rejected the idea that her agency should do so, saying that was a matter for the Department of Justice. Sen. Paul's office blasted Burwell's response, calling it "unacceptable" and said it "makes clear that a thorough internal investigation of compliance was not conducted."

But Levenson is now going forward with the investigation, saying in a Dec. 4 letter to Paul that he would look into the fetal tissue research grants and "any known violations of Federal requirements":

As discussed in that meeting, we will interview HHS and National Institutes of Health (NIH) officials, as the majority of HHS funding for human fetal tissue research is awarded through NIH. This approach will also focus on gathering relevant documentation related to policies and procedures for monitoring fetal tissue research activities. Our goal is to obtain information related to fetal tissue research grants, NIH’s monitoring procedures over third-party certifications and those related to the Department’s internal fetal tissue research, and any known violations of Federal requirements.

"I am encouraged to see the Inspector General take action to investigate Planned Parenthood’s unconscionable practices. Planned Parenthood selling body parts of the unborn demonstrates that the organization deserves not one penny more of our taxpayer dollars, and I am confident this investigation will give further proof of that," said Paul in a statement.

Here's the complete text of Sen. Paul's press release:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following the request initiated by U.S. Senator Rand Paul, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Inspector General (OIG) Daniel R. Levinson has opened an investigation, including a full audit into the compliance of HHS grantees with the fetal tissue regulations to determine whether there have been violations of the law and how the agency verifies compliance.

Originally stemming from videos showcasing Planned Parenthood’s potential violations of federal law, Sen. Paul sent a letter, signed by 34 of his colleagues, on October 6, 2015, to HHS OIG Levinson calling for an audit to specifically examine the Department’s oversight of contractor and grantee compliance with laws governing fetal tissue research. The full text of Sen. Paul’s letter can be found HERE.

Sen. Paul, in response to HHS OIG Levinson’s investigation, released the following statement:

“I am encouraged to see the Inspector General take action to investigate Planned Parenthood’s unconscionable practices. Planned Parenthood selling body parts of the unborn demonstrates that the organization deserves not one penny more of our taxpayer dollars, and I am confident this investigation will give further proof of that,” Sen. Paul said.

In July 2015, Sen. Paul joined 49 of his Senate colleagues in sending a bipartisan letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell immediately following the release of footage from the Center for Medical Progress depicting Planned Parenthood executives discussing - in graphic detail - the organization’s involvement in the harvesting and sale of the organs of aborted babies. In the letter, the Senators asked HHS to conduct an internal review of the compliance of both HHS and their grantee, Planned Parenthood, with all applicable federal laws, including those prohibiting the sale of fetal tissue for profit. The response received from Sec. Burwell in August was unacceptable and makes clear that a thorough internal investigation of compliance was not conducted.

Click HERE to read HHS OIG Levinson’s response to Sen. Paul.