DOJ Launches Investigation Into Planned Parenthood Over Fetal Tissue Harvesting Practices

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has launched an investigation into Planned Parenthood's controversial fetal tissue practices following a December 2016 recommendation by the Judiciary Committee contained within a 63 page report on the subject, entitled: "Human Fetal Tissue Research: Context and Controversy." 

Planned Parenthood, Louisville, KY

The committee's report was prompted by a disturbing series of undercover videos released in 2015 by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), which appeared to show Planned Parenthood negotiating with an operative over the price of fetal tissue. 

In a letter seen by The Washington Examiner, DOJ Assistant AG for Legislative Affairs, Stephen Boyd, asks Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) for an unredacted version of the committee's report. 

Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs Stephen Boyd pursued the committee's request, formally asking Grassley and ranking member Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on Thursday for the documents for investigative purposes and not for a formal legal proceeding, which he notes would need a Senate resolution.

 

Boyd explained that he is requesting the documents in order to further the department s ability to conduct a thorough and comprehensive assessment of that report based on the full range of information available." -Washington Examiner

The 2015 undercover sting on Planned Parenthood was conducted over a period of 30 months, with the CMP claiming that the videos were evidence of Planned Parenthood engaging in the illegal sale of fetal tissue. Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS reviewed the videos and found them to be altered. CMP shot back, claiming the edits were of "bathroom breaks and waiting periods." 

In one video, a Planned Parenthood executive haggles over the prices of fetal tissue, at one point exclaiming "you know in negotiations the person who throws out a figure first is at a loss, right?

After the videos were released, Planned Parenthood announced that they would stop receiving paymentsfor fetal tissue, while repeatedly stating that the facilities selling fetal tissue were only recovering their costs, to which Senator Grassley demanded the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) supply "[a] detailed accounting of the costs incurred by Planned Parenthood's provision of fetal tissue." 

What Senator Grassley discovered is that every single Planned Parenthood affiliate ignored policies requiring them to use independent auditors to analyze the actual costs of fetal tissue transfers. In fact, there was virtually no oversight to Planned Parenthood's sales of fetal tissue to vendors who were profiting handsomely on the sale of individual parts. 

While Planned Parenthood is allowed to sell fetal tissue samples under the law, the organization was only supposed to charge enough to recover the actual costs of harvesting a fetus. Senator Grassley said that the committee's investigation found enough evidence proving Planned Parenthood had violated the law by charging researchers higher-than-usual costs for transferred body parts and fetal tissue from abortions. 

The Judiciary Committee's report also notes the exorbitant profits earned by some of the companies purchasing fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood. In one transaction, tissue buyer Advanced BIoscience Resources (ABR) provided logs and invoices showing a $60 payment for a 20-week-old fetus from Planned Parenthood, only to turn around and sell its individual parts for $2,275 to five separate customers - a markup of 3,791%. 

The same day as the above fetus was "parted out," ABR "obtained, processed, and shipped a total of 20 specimens from four procured fetuses," earning $6,825 while paying Planned Parenthood $240.

In another example from the report, Planned Parenthood parts buyer StemExpress obtained a 19-week-old fetus from a Planned Parenthood clinic. "From that one fetus, StemExpress sold its brain for $250 to one customer, its liver for $250, its thymus for $250 and its torso skin for $250 to a second customer." 

The committee report is filled with Other examples of ABR's tissue sales - which had been earning over $600,000 per year from the practice. As the Judiciary Committee report states, "With no executive branch oversight and no meaningful risk of prosecution, the companies involved in transferring fetal tissue have been free to receive substantial payments with impunity," adding "[C]ompanies have charged thousands of dollars for specimens removed from a single aborted fetus; they have claimed the fees they charged only recovered acceptable costs when they had not, in fact, conducted any analysis of their costs."

If the Department of Justice concludes that Planned Parenthood violated laws against profiting from the sale of human fetal tissue, it will be a major win for pro-life advocates, as the Trump administration will have stronger grounds to explore defunding the organization after previous attempts have failed. In January, one day after the 22nd anniversary of the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the US, President Trump expanded the Reagan-era "Mexico City Policy" which had been suspended under Obama - defunding $8.8 billion in foreign aid to organizations which perform, discuss or promote abortion.