WASHINGTON (BP) — The House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives referred Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast for criminal prosecution to the Texas attorney general Dec. 1 over allegations it sold aborted babies’ body parts.
“There is so much that we the American people didn’t understand and still don’t understand about this industry,” said Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, on the House floor. “However, since then, the panel’s investigation has uncovered alarming revelations about the fetal tissue industry.”
The House panel accused the Houston Planned Parenthood affiliate of engaging in illegal sale of fetal tissue to the University of Texas and encouraged the attorney general to open a criminal investigation. The referral is one of multiple violations from abortion providers and businesses involved in fetal tissue commerce uncovered by the select panel.
Current law allows for the voluntary transfer of tissue with consent, but profiting from human fetal tissue sales is a felony punishable up to 10 years in prison. Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast is just one of the entities the panel suspects of wrongdoing.
“Over the last year, we have held hearings that explored the bioethics surrounding fetal tissue use, and that revealed the sobering reality of how some bad actors seek to profit from the sale of fetal tissue in violation of federal law,” said Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., chairwoman of the panel.
The 14-member panel formed in October 2015 in response to undercover videos by the Center for Medical Progress showing the apparent grim nature of the fetal procurement industry.
In the last year, the panel reportedly found evidence of StemExpress, a tissue procurement company that does business with Planned Parenthood, profiting as much as 400 percent for each sale of fetal tissue. On the company’s website, researchers could purchase individual aborted body parts at whatever gestational period they wanted. StemExpress also employed “tissue-technicians,” paid an hourly wage with a commission per sale, to stake out abortion centers — matching online orders with scheduled abortions for the day.
In September, the panel voted to hold StemExpress in criminal contempt for not complying with multiple requests for complete accounting records.
In addition, the panel found Planned Parenthood used misleading consent forms which stated fetal tissue “has been used to treat and cure” Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and AIDS.
The six Democrats on the panel walked out of the last committee meeting in September, refusing to participate in what they called a “witch hunt” against abortion providers and researchers.
After heated debate Dec. 1, the House voted 234-181 to allocate an additional $800,000 to aid the panel in its investigation.
Democrats argued the panel’s work was having a chilling effect on research to find cures for illnesses such as multiple sclerosis and diabetes. Republicans disagreed and detailed the violations of Planned Parenthood and StemExpress as examples for why the panel needed more funding.
“The Select Panel’s investigation has been worth every dime of money it has spent pursuing the truth,” said Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue. “It has caused the breakup of several illegal aborted baby–tissue trafficking schemes and launched investigations around the country.”
The House Energy and Commerce Committee commissioned the panel to submit a final report on the investigation due at the end of the year.