Politics & Policy

The Planned Parenthood Investigation: One Year Later

(Lucas Jackson/Reuters)
A House panel looks at the grisly details.

It has been one year since the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released its first undercover video, revealing compelling evidence that Planned Parenthood has been illegally selling the body parts of aborted babies to the fetal-tissue industry.

In January, President Obama vetoed a bill that would have forbidden taxpayer funding from Planned Parenthood. But the House Select Investigative Panel — formed last October in response to CMP’s videos — has been conducting extensive investigations into the organization’s practices.

Yesterday, the panel released an interim report confirming, with extensive evidence, the CMP video footage, and finding that Planned Parenthood and its affiliates have broken several federal laws — including the NIH Revitalization Act of 1993, a federal statute prohibiting the acquisition, reception, or transfer of fetal tissue for monetary considerations. The panel report provides nearly incontrovertible proof that the organization consistently engaged in this very type of fetal-tissue trafficking.

Furthermore, the investigation shows that “financial interests are increasingly driving management and clinical practice decisions” at Planned Parenthood. Because abortions are the most lucrative of its services, the organization consistently emphasizes the importance of keeping abortion numbers up. In one case, “Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains gave an award to the Planned Parenthood of Aurora, Colorado, ‘for exceeding abortion visits in the first half of FY12 compared to first half of FY13.’”

From the panel’s report:

Furthermore, in 2010, affiliates were asked to ensure that at least one of their clinics perform abortions. According to a Planned Parenthood fact sheet, for every adoption referral they make, they perform about 340 abortions. Similarly, abortion represented 97% of pregnancy-related services in 2009, despite the frequent claim that abortion is only 3% of its services. Based on PPFA’s own numbers, abortion accounts for about 30% of its annual income.

The panel also discovered evidence that Planned Parenthood outfits across the country committed Medicaid fraud, filing claims under the umbrella term “family planning services,” which was frequently used to cover abortion.

Stem Express’s website even had a drop-down menu of fetal body parts for purchase.

Investigation into StemExpress — the primary biotech firm that purchased fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood and resold it to researchers — found that the organization functioned as a middleman between abortion clinics and medical researchers, screening clinics and recruiting those that were most likely to perform abortions that would produce saleable tissue. The firm’s website, for a time, even had a drop-down menu that allowed researchers to select the different fetal body parts they wished to purchase.

In order to accelerate this process, StemExpress would hire tissue technicians and embed them inside abortion clinics. The report provides the following typical daily schedule of such a technician:

At the beginning of the day, the tissue technician received an email from StemExpress including the day’s orders for certain baby body parts and the gestation period, letting her know what she needed to harvest that day, and where she would be assigned. Once she arrived at the clinic, the tissue technician checked in with the Abortion Clinic Assistant Manager and informed the staff what she would procure that day.

Then the technician reviewed the private medical files of the patients for that day to learn their names and the gestational ages of their babies. She recorded the gestations on the gestation tracking log provided by StemExpress.

Next the technician met with the patients waiting to be prepped for their abortions, after receiving their names from clinic staff. Then she convinced them to consent to donate by saying that the donation will help cure diabetes, Parkinson’s, and heart disease.

After an abortion, the technician collected the baby’s remains and procured the body parts that were ordered, using her own supplies. The technician then packed the tissues or body parts, and shipped them directly to the customer via a courier or FedEx.

She received an hourly wage and a bonus for each tissue.

Tissue-procurement technicians were shown to have e-mailed researchers about possible tissue sales at the same time that the abortions in question were taking place, and in many cases the employees promised to procure the requested tissues.

An example of such an e-mail conversation is provided in the report:

On January 22, 2015, at 12:26 p.m., the customer emailed a StemExpress employee stating: “Just wanted to check in and see if there are any cases within our gestation range for today? Need to book some time on the equipment if so.”

Within minutes, at 12:30 p.m., the StemExpress employee replied: “There is one case currently in the room, I will let you know how the limbs and calvarium [skull] look to see if you are able to take them in about fifteen minutes.”

Less than two minutes later, the customer wrote: “Great thank you so much.”

At 1:20 p.m., the StemExpress employee informed the customer: “The calvarium is mostly intact, with a tear up the back of the suture line, but all pieces look to be there. The limbs, one upper and one lower, are totally intact, with one upper broken at the humerus, and one lower broken right above the knee. Please let me know if these are acceptable. I have set them aside and will await your reply.”

Approximately five minutes later, the customer replied: “That sounds great we would like both of them. Please send them our way. Thanks again . . . ”

The StemExpress employee responded: “Limbs and calvarium will be there between 3:30 and 4:00.”

Another important concern of the panel is the possibility that, owing to the obvious financial incentives, babies are being born alive and then killed in order to harvest their organs, which would violate the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act. The panel found that “whole baby cadavers of a viable age are transferred from some abortion clinics to researchers.” Statistics show that the likelihood of infants’ being born alive has increased in recent years, while simultaneously the age of viability has lowered; this will be an area of focus for the panel in the days ahead.

Since last fall, when the panel was formed, many have claimed that human fetal tissue is essential in developing vaccines, especially for polio, but the panel found extensive evidence that this claim is inaccurate. In addition, claims that Zika-virus research relies heavily on fetal tissue are largely overblown. The false claims are related to the panel’s concern that clinics routinely present young women with misleading and coercive consent forms, requesting permission to donate the fetal tissue after the abortion. The forms falsely claim that fetal tissue from aborted babies has been used to treat or cure diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and AIDS, a powerful suggestion to women in a vulnerable state.

A consent form provided by StemExpress made similarly false claims about the benefits of donating fetal tissue. But in reality, despite the fact that fetal tissue has been used in biomedical research for almost 100 years, not a single medical cure has resulted from this practice.

The information uncovered about these consent forms is just another piece of evidence showing that coercion is common in the abortion industry. For instance, a Medical Science Monitor study reports that 64 percent of abortions involve some type of coercion. Former Planned Parenthood workers, as well as women who had abortions, have given firsthand accounts of abortion-clinic employees’ coercing women both verbally and physically into having an abortion.

In the course of the panel’s investigation, several entities — including StemExpress — have failed to produce requested documents and, despite being subpoenaed, have yet to fully comply with the panel’s requests for information.

The panel will release a final, formal report on its investigation no later than the end of 2016.

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