By Megan Cassella
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Planned Parenthood said on Monday it is looking into reports that the women's healthcare provider's website was hacked by anti-abortion activists as it faces criticism for its use of aborted fetal tissue.
The nonprofit group has come under scrutiny since the release of two secretly recorded videos earlier this month showing its officials discussing ways to perform abortions to preserve fetal tissue for research, as well as the costs involved.
The Daily Dot, an online newspaper, reported on Monday that an anti-abortion hacking group had released Planned Parenthood's website databases and the names and email addresses of its employees.
"We've seen the claims around attempts to access our systems. We take security very seriously and are investigating," Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood, said in a statement.
"It's unsurprising that those opposed to safe and legal abortion are participating in this campaign of harassment against us and our patients, and claiming to stoop to this new low," she said. Planned Parenthood stopped short of acknowledging an actual breach.
The hackers said they plan to release the organization's internal emails soon, but none have been published so far, the Daily Dot reported.
On a website where the allegedly hacked information was posted, the hackers called themselves "social justice warriors" who are taking action against the legal but highly controversial field of fetal tissue research.
The hack follows weeks of debate among lawmakers in which Republicans have sought to investigate and defund the organization while Democrats have rushed to its defense. Planned Parenthood receives nearly $500 million in federal funding each year.
On Monday, the National Women's Law Center sent a letter signed by 91 organizations to congressional leaders expressing support for Planned Parenthood, emphasizing its role as an affordable women's health provider focusing on family planning and preventive care.
Abortions comprise just 3 percent of Planned Parenthood's services annually, according to its website.
Last week, Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul began fast-tracking legislation to eliminate the group's federal funding, which could allow for a Senate vote as early as this week.
(Reporting by Megan Cassella; Editing by Richard Chang)