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Friday, July 15, 2016

Resources and summary of Planned Parenthood baby parts scandal

Resources from colleagues on Capitol Hill regarding the Planned Parenthood baby parts scandal:
One year ago the first of a series of videos showing Planned Parenthood and fetal tissue brokers discussing harvesting and selling baby body parts was released.  In the months following, the House responded to the information in the videos by voting to defund Planned Parenthood six times. The House also passed a bill to protect babies who survive abortions and established a Select Panel on Infant Lives to investigate. 


Executive Summary 

Select Investigative Panel Interim Update to the House

I.                    Congress Created the Select Investigative Panel

a.       Following the release of undercover videos documenting shocking admissions and graphic footage of abortion clinics and so-called “tissue procurement companies,” Congress initiated hearings and subsequently created a Select Investigative Panel to carry out an in-depth investigation into the allegations revealed by the videos. The primary allegation was that abortion clinics received a payment for aborted babies’ body parts from tissue procurement companies who then resold those parts for researchers.

II.                 Formation of the Investigative Plan- Applicable Laws, Regulations, and Commissions

a.       Federal Laws that Address the Treatment of Women and Children

                                                              i.      There are guidelines in place meant to prevent the callous treatment of women and children whose privacy and well-being the Panel’s investigation reveals are being violated. Among them are the Born Alive Protection Act, the Belmont Report, the findings of several Presidential Commissions on bioethics, the HIPAA Privacy Rule, the Common Rule, Institutional Review Board Regulations, and federal statutes. Investigative evidence shows that the motive for disregarding these safeguards is financial gain. Abortion clinics remedy these problems by, among other activities, overbilling the government for Medicaid reimbursements and, more disturbingly, profiting from the sale of the leftover body parts of babies they have just aborted.

b.      Federal Statutes Governing the Transfer of Human Fetal Tissue

                                                              i.      The NIH Revitalization Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. § 289g-1 and 42 U.S.C. § 289g-2): Rep. Waxman, a Democrat, offered the amendment to the NIH Revitalization Act of 1993 that governs the donation of fetal tissue, specifically §289 g-2(a). It states that “it shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any human fetal tissue for valuable consideration if the transfer affects interstate commerce.”

                                                            ii.      The Statute Informed the Panel’s Investigative Plan: The main point of the Panel’s inquiry centered on this question: If fetal tissue is transferred from one entity to another, does the transfer violate the intent of §289 g-2? To answer this question, the Panel has analyzed four business models currently operating in the market sector and one operating in the public sector: 1) The Middleman Model; 2) The University/Clinic Model; 3) The Biotech Company/Clinic Model; 4) The Late-Term Clinic Model; and 5) The Government Funded Research Model.
                                                          iii.      Fetal Tissue Sales and Abortion Clinic Fiscal Problems: Although abortion providers and abortion rights advocates have a long history of stating that “it’s not about the money” but about women’s reproductive health, the Panel’s investigation has produced evidence that financial interests are increasingly driving management and clinical practice decisions.

III.              The Ethics of Fetal Tissue

a.       Amazing scientific and biomedical advances are continuously being discovered and developed. Congress, research institutions, and the medical community must continue to work together to promote medical advancements while simultaneously ensuring that laws and regulations on ethics remain up to date. On March 2, 2016, the Panel held a hearing entitled Bioethics and Fetal Tissue. The hearing focused on ethical issues raised as a result of information recently made public about fetal tissue donations, transfer of fetal tissue, and use of fetal tissue by research institutions.

IV.              Case Studies of the Fetal Tissue Industry

a.       At a hearing on The Pricing of Fetal Tissue, the Panel compared documents produced from StemExpress, LLC, a for-profit business, to the applicable federal statute. StemExpress obtains fetal tissue from abortion clinics and offers it for resale to researchers. The documents show that StemExpress embedded employees within a group of abortion clinics to procure fetal tissue, and those employees then shipped the tissue to customers. StemExpress paid the abortion clinics a per-tissue fee for each tissue its employees procured, plus a per-tissue bonus to StemExpress employees.

V.                Biomedical Research and Fetal Tissue

a.       The Panel’s investigation has produced a fact-based picture of the history, utility, and uses of fetal tissue in biomedical research. The importance of fetal tissue has been mischaracterized by political rhetoric. The Panel continues to seek ethical methods for the conduct of important research to find treatment and cures for injuries and disease.

VI.              Compliance with Congressional Subpoenas

a.       At least four entities from whom the Panel requested documents have failed to fully comply with the Panel’s requests. As a result, the Panel was forced to serve subpoenas on Southwestern Women’s Options, the University of New Mexico, Advanced Bioscience Resources, and StemExpress. However, none of these entities have complied with their subpoenas, making it impossible for the Panel to fully conduct its investigation. In some cases, the Panel has been made aware, through other sources, of documents missing from productions. The absence of these important documents raises the concern that others are missing as well.

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