The following comes from an email sent by a Cal Catholic correspondent on June 3.
Planned Parenthood supporters have been trying to shut down the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives ever since it was formed last October. In May, 181 Democratic members of Congress sent a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, calling it a witch hunt: “While the panel’s investigation has never been fair or fact-based, its pattern of reckless disregard for safety has escalated over the past few weeks.” On the contrary, says Rep. Marsha Blackburn, chair of the panel, “We must continue to pursue these records if we are ever to get the facts that we need in order to complete our investigation. The American people deserve nothing less.”
What is the Select Investigative Panel and what has it accomplished?
“The U.S. House of Representatives performs a quintessentially legislative role,” says Blackburn. “Indeed, the Supreme Court ‘has often noted that the power to investigate is inherent in the power to make laws because a legislative body cannot legislate wisely or effectively in the absence of information respecting the conditions which the legislation is intended to affect or change.’” In its quest for information, the House formed the Select Investigative Panel with the mission to “gather information and get the facts about medical practices of abortion service providers and the business practices of the procurement
organizations who sell baby body parts.” So far the panel has held two hearings and issued multiple rounds of subpoenas to individuals and organizations involved in the fetal tissue market.
The panel sent more than thirty letters requesting that information be supplied voluntarily before it issued any subpoenas. On February 16, the panel subpoenaed documents and communications concerning the procurement of fetal tissue from StemExpress, Southwestern Women’s Options, and the University of New Mexico. Southwestern Women’s Options attracts clients from all over the world for abortions up until birth and is known to have connections with the University of New Mexico, which trains abortionists and uses fetal tissue for research. StemExpress is a dealer in human tissue.
On March 2, the panel held a hearing on the use of fetal tissue in medical research. One of the witnesses admitted that she had lied to potential donors, telling them that fetal tissue had been used to find cures for various diseases. Several witnesses testified that fetal tissue is not necessary for medical research, but others disagreed, claiming that stem cells derived from fetal tissue are critical to developing cures and vaccines for diseases such as Zika. Within two weeks following the hearing, scientists announced both a breakthrough in understanding how Zika affects the unborn child’s brain and also the development of a vaccine for Dengue fever, which is closely related to Zika – neither discovery used fetal tissue.
“There should be no resistance to letting all the facts come out – but some abortion supporters seem to be clearly rattled with basic facts coming to light. Therefore, in the interest of completing our investigation pursuant to H. Res. 461, we will continue to issue subpoenas when necessary to ensure information can be gathered in a timely fashion,” Rep. Blackburn said in a press release issued on March 30 in conjunction with twelve new subpoenas served to StemExpress and related individuals, University of New Mexico and related individuals, BioMed IRB, and Ganogen.
On April 20, the Panel held another hearing, this time on the pricing of fetal tissue. The exhibits included procurement logs by StemExpress employees who obtained fetal parts from abortion clinics, a listing of dollar amounts awarded to employees as bonuses for various organs obtained, and invoices for fetal body parts, including brain priced at $595 and 18 to 19 week “upper and lower limbs with hands and feet” priced at $890. Some pro-abortion witnesses at the hearing claimed that the evidence was insufficient and that it would be necessary for the panel to examine StemExpress’s banking records to determine if they had illegally profited.
“Now that their own witness has testified about the need for StemExpress to provide us with information we have subpoenaed, hopefully Democrats will finally come to the table and work with us in a bipartisan fashion to encourage attorneys for StemExpress to comply with our requests,” Rep. Blackburn said. “Accounting documents don’t lie, and so far the evidence we’ve compiled shows that further investigation is warranted. Our task is to get all the facts, and it is my hope that all members of this investigative panel will work together in that effort.” On May 5, the panel subpoenaed two financial entities in an attempt to obtain StemExpress’s banking and accounting records.
On May 11, the panel issued subpoenas to Leroy Carhart, who operates a late-term abortion clinic in Germantown, Maryland, and to eight other related entities. Public records indicate that he has sent at least five women to the hospital since December. The panel is investigating his late-term practices as well as the possibility that some of the babies he aborts are not killed until after birth.
On June 1, the panel made its first accusations. In a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services, Blackburn says, “In particular, the panel’s investigation has uncovered information indicating that StemExpress and Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, Planned Parenthood Shasta Pacific and Family Planning Specialists Medical Group … committed systematic violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”) privacy rule from about 2010 to 2015. These violations occurred when the abortion clinics disclosed patients’ individually identifiable health information to StemExpress to facilitate the [tissue procurement business’s] efforts to procure human fetal tissue for resale.”
The letter includes evidence that StemExpress had daily orders from researchers for certain organs at particular gestations. Arriving at a clinic in the morning before the abortions were performed, StemExpress employees would examine the patients’ medical charts to decide which patients to approach and obtain consent for tissue donation. Access to all of the medical charts allowed the StemExpress employees to only approach those patients whose whose wombs contained the desired tissues. Citing these “serious and systematic violations of the HIPAA privacy rule,” Blackburn urges “a swift and full investigation by the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services.”
Blackburn sent a separate letter to the HHS Office for Human Research Protections with evidence that StemExpress has been “fraudulently using invalid consent forms and misleading customers to believe it had a valid Institutional Review Board approval” and urging an investigation.