Lawmakers to HHS: investigate StemExpress, Planned Parenthood
WASHINGTON (BP) -- The Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to investigate StemExpress and Planned Parenthood affiliates for potentially illegal activity that generated profit from selling baby body parts.
In April, the congressional panel found evidence linking StemExpress to illegal profits from the sale of aborted baby body parts. Panel investigators uncovered StemExpress documentation of fetal tissue technicians stationed inside abortion centers to round up tiny livers, kidneys, hearts and lungs for buyers -- selling them for pure profit.
On June 1, the panel delivered two letters to HHS asking it to take a closer look at the relationship between StemExpress and the abortion centers it once worked with. After being exposed by undercover pro-life journalists investigating the fetal tissue trade, StemExpress cut ties with Planned Parenthood in August.
According to the first letter sent by the infant lives panel, StemExpress violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) -- which empowers patients to determine when and where their private medical information goes. The second letter said StemExpress used invalid consent forms to persuade women to give up the remains of their aborted children, believing the forms had Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval.
"[T]here's a business contract between StemExpress and the abortion clinics under which both sides make a profit from the baby body parts inside the young woman's womb," said Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., the panel's chairwoman. "The contract changes the way both entities view the young woman: her baby is now a profit-center. This betrayal of a young woman's trust should disgust us all. It takes financial advantage, obtains consent through coercion, and deceives the woman, all in violation of federal privacy laws."
Sparked by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) undercover videos of Planned Parenthood, the House Energy and Commerce committee created the select panel last fall to conduct a complete investigation of U.S. abortion providers and the legality of fetal tissue brokers.
Between 2010 and 2015, abortion centers permitted StemExpress employees to enter and procure human fetal tissue from aborted infants, the panel's letters say. Those employees made $10 an hour plus $30 for each sale.
"Tissue technicians" visited partnered abortion centers at the beginning of each week to match babies scheduled for abortions with fetal tissue orders placed on the StemExpress website.
The letters listed Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, Planned Parenthood Shasta Pacific, and Family Planning Specialists Medical Group as centers in need of further investigation.
Blackburn said the procurement practice is a violation of HIPAA because the abortion centers willfully disclosed patients' "individually identifiable" health information to StemExpress to help facilitate fetal tissue resale.
"Abortion clinics could have established a relationship with StemExpress that did not require or result in the disclosure of any [protected health information]," Blackburn said. "Instead, the Planned Parenthood affiliates permitted StemExpress to use [protected health information] to directly encourage patients to donate human fetal tissue -- tissue that would later be sold by StemExpress to researchers at a huge mark-up."
The second letter sent to HHS said StemExpress used invalid consent forms to obtain the fetal tissue, which violates IRB standards.
Blackburn said the forms gave women false promises, making them more inclined to donate their baby's body parts and feel better about the abortion.
StemExpress consent forms claimed research from donated fetal tissue has helped find cures for Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, cancer and AIDS.
The panel's letters said given the facts, HHS needs to conduct a thorough investigation into StemExpress and its abortion center partners.
"[T]he violations in Planned Parenthood and StemExpress' illegal baby body parts trade goes far deeper than anyone ever realized," said David Daleiden, CMP project leader. "Elected officials at all levels must now act immediately to hold lawless entities like StemExpress and Planned Parenthood accountable for their atrocities against humanity."