House documents strike at abortion clinic claims
A House of Representatives panel offered evidence at an April 20 hearing that abortion clinics profit from trade in body parts of babies in apparent violation of federal law. The House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives released documents from a fetal tissue procurement business that appeared to contradict claims that clinics do not make a profit when selling organs and tissue from aborted babies.
The panel's hearing on fetal tissue pricing was the latest step in an investigation prompted by the release last year of undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of organs from aborted children. The videos, recorded by hidden camera, featured Planned Parenthood executives acknowledging their willingness to manipulate the abortion procedure to preserve organs for sale and use.
The House panel barely referred to Planned Parenthood -- the country's leading abortion provider -- during the hearing, but its role in the investigation was not lost on its defenders or critics.
The House's investigation "has demonstrated what the video testimony showed to be true, that Planned Parenthood and other groups have made a profit from the sale of infant body parts," said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
"Planned Parenthood is not a health care provider; they are pirates and grave-robbers of defenseless infants who have no grave," Moore told Baptist Press in written comments. "No culture can call itself humane while it tolerates such wickedness. I pray that our lawmakers would see this gross injustice and act on the side of human rights."
The hearing focused on whether payments for baby parts made to abortion clinics and tissue procurement companies -- which act as middlemen on behalf of researchers -- violate a 1993 law. That measure prohibits payments beyond reasonable costs for such activities as processing, storage and transportation of human fetal tissue.
Documents made available by the panel from a tissue procurement business included:
-- A marketing brochure distributed at an abortion trade association meeting that said a clinic could help with biomedical research in a way that is "financially profitable;"
-- Exhibits showing technicians employed by the procurement company work within clinics to identify and procure body parts of unborn children being aborted;
-- A list of body parts researchers can order;
-- A screen grab of the company's website that shows the step-by-step process from a researcher ordering specific tissue, to a technician gaining pre-abortion consent from the woman for use of the body part, to a technician shipping the tissue to the procurement company paying the clinic per tissue;
-- Lists of payments by researchers to the procurement company, including purchases of fetal brains of 5 to 24 weeks' gestation for $715 apiece.
Based on the exhibits outlining the work of procurement technicians in abortion clinics, panel investigators concluded in a white paper released at the hearing that "all possible management guidance, tasks, and responsibilities are undertaken by the [procurement business] procurement tech employee and that no tasks are performed by the abortion clinic. Thus, the costs of tissue acquisition are entirely born by entities other [than] the abortion clinic."
Since the abortion clinic "has no reasonable costs to be reimbursed, it raises an inference that it sold the human fetal tissue for a profit," panel investigators reported.
Democrats on the panel disputed the trustworthiness of the documents presented by the Republican majority. Some assailed the committee's existence while seeking to discredit the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), which produced the secret videos of Planned Parenthood officials.
Rep. Diana DeGette, D.-Colo., called the documents "misleading and, moreover, the conclusions that are drawn" false.
Rep. Jackie Speier, D.-Calif., said the panel is "the very definition of a kangaroo court, a mock court that disregards the rules of law and justice to validate a predetermined conclusion."
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, described the Democrats' strategy as "a desperate attempt to detract attention from the evidence that abortion facilities like Planned Parenthood participate in an elaborate human fetal tissue procurement network designed to harvest, package and profit from the sale of parts from aborted children. The Democrats' refusal to cooperate in this investigation speaks volumes about their dedication to abortion ideology."
The panel's chair -- Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R.-Tenn. – defended the documents, telling Democrats they were produced by the panel's "regular investigatory work. We have had things that have come to us from whistleblowers, from subpoenas from former employees, citizens that have filed FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests, the panel's whistleblower portal, as I said, and also an Internet search archive search engine."
Rep. Joseph Pitts of Pennsylvania joined other Republican panel members in decrying the fetal trade. "[F]or crying out loud, this is the Amazon.com of baby body parts," he said. "There is a market for baby body parts, and you get what you pay for. This is absolutely repulsive."
Among witnesses at the hearing were four former federal attorneys, three who seemed to be in basic agreement in their analyses of the documents the panel provided.
One, Kenneth Sukhia of Tallahassee, Fla., said after reviewing the exhibits and the videos, "[I]t strikes me as odd that there would not be an aggressive and meaningful investigation [by the Department of Justice] into the allegation that indeed human baby parts are being sold for profit."
The panel redacted the name of the tissue procurement business connected to the documents, but a Democratic member of the panel named StemExpress as the company. In addition to videos of Planned Parenthood officials, CMP also released undercover footage of StemExpress officials discussing their work. It also showed video of a former employee of StemExpress discussing her experience procuring baby organs at a Planned Parenthood clinic.
While Planned Parenthood and its Democratic allies have charged CMP with fraud, CMP has not only released edited versions of the videos but has posted at its website what it calls full footage of the conversations between PPFA officials and people posing as representatives of a biologics firm. A digital, forensics analysis in September reported the videos "are authentic." Coalfire Systems Inc., which has some Fortune 500 companies among its clients, said the videos "show no evidence of manipulation or editing."
PPFA and its affiliates received $553.7 million in government grants and reimbursements, according to its latest annual financial report (2014-15). Planned Parenthood affiliates performed 323,999 abortions during 2013-14, the most recent year for which statistics are available.
President Obama vetoed legislation in January that would have cut nearly 90 percent of federal funds for Planned Parenthood in the next year.