Abuses and possibly criminal violations are occurring in the fetal tissue trade between abortion clinics and tissue harvesters, concluded the special House panel investigating the matter on Wednesday.
“It is my hope that our recommendations will result in some necessary changes within both the abortion and fetal tissue procurement industries,” Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), chair of the House Select Investigative Panel, said upon release of the panel's final report.
“Our hope is that these changes will both protect women and their unborn children, as well as the integrity of scientific research,” she said.
The investigative panel released its 471-page final report Wednesday. This came weeks after Democrats on the panel released their 112-page report claiming that Planned Parenthood was not guilty of any wrongdoing and that the panel's investigations into the fetal tissue trade were hindering positive benefits from research conducted on fetal tissue.
In the summer of 2015, the investigative group Center for Medical Progress released a series of undercover interviews conducted with high-ranking Planned Parenthood officials and current and former members of tissue procurement companies.
The videos showed Planned Parenthood officials discussing clinics' roles in the transfer of fetal tissue of aborted babies to tissue companies for reimbursement.
Fetal tissue may be used for purposes like medical research but in abortions it must be obtained with the consent of the mother and may not be transferred for “valuable consideration,” but only for “reasonable” compensation for costs like operating and transfer.
The House launched investigations into the situation to see if laws had been broken by tissue companies or abortion clinics. In October, the House voted to bring about the Select Investigative Panel to look into the matter further. Rep. Blackburn was picked to chair the panel.
Wednesday's report summarized various findings of the panel over the last year, from investigations and testimony in the fetal tissue trade, that resulted in the panel making over a dozen criminal and regulatory referrals.
Consent forms to use the remains of the aborted child for research were allegedly not obtained from mothers by abortion clinics.
One of the panel's hearings “revealed substantial concern about the consent process for the donation of human fetal tissue used by abortion clinics and tissue procurement businesses (TPBs),” the report stated. “Evidence revealed that self-interested staff, whose pay depends on the numbers of specimens donated, were assigned to obtain consent from patients.”
Violations of privacy were also found by the panel to have allegedly occurred in transactions between abortion clinics and tissue procurement companies.
The possibly illegal exchanges of a patient’s health information between abortion clinics and the tissue procurement company StemExpress violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), the report said, and the panel referred the matter to the Department of Health and Human Services.
Also, the University of New Mexico established a relationship with a nearby abortion clinic that could have violated federal and state laws, the panel alleged.
The clinic, Southwestern Women's Options, was said to provide fetal tissue to the university for research as students and fellows performed abortions at the clinic. Clinic abortionists were reportedly given “volunteer faculty” status at the university where they benefited from things like insurance coverage and access to school facilities yet did not have to teach classes.
This was “giving their relationship the components of an exchange of fetal tissue for valuable consideration,” the report stated.
Also, “the close relationship” enabled various alleged abuses to occur, like “allegations of shoddy clinical practices, including failure to utilize a consent form for fetal tissue donation and improperly combining consent for tissue donation with consent for the underlying abortion procedure,” the report noted.
Other abuses the panel alleged had to do with clinics and tissue harvesters illegally profiting from the sale of fetal tissue. In one case, a Planned Parenthood clinic and the tissue procurement company claimed the same expenses in tissue transactions, although only one party seemingly would be able to claim the operating costs so as not to illegally profit from the transaction.
Planned Parenthood for America officials also admitted to not following the organization's own internal procedures on fetal tissue transactions, and on abortionists affirming they had not illegally altered the abortion procedure for harvesters to more easily obtain intact tissue.
Also on Wednesday, the pro-life research group Charlotte Lozier Institute and the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom released a report of their own relying on dozens of audits of Planned Parenthood clinics and state family planning programs.
The report alleged “waste, fraud, and abuse” in Planned Parenthood's participation in Medicaid billing, resulting in clinics over-billing over $130 million in Medicaid and other public health funding.
Rep. Blackburn concluded her time as the panel's chair by thanking her fellow pro-life members. “It was an honor to Chair the Select Investigative Panel. I want to thank my colleagues who are strong pro-life leaders and have worked tirelessly over the past year,” she said Wednesday.
Other panel members insisted that the report’s recommendations – like ensuring that informed consent is obtained before tissue procurement and that privacy of medical information is respected – should be followed. Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah) stated that “we must protect the unborn, and every citizen’s God-given right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”