Politics & Policy

Orange County DA Sues Planned Parenthood–Affiliated Research Companies over Sale of Aborted Fetal Tissue

Orange County, Calif., DA Tony Rackauckas in 2013 (Reuters photo: Lori Shepler)
The new lawsuit implies that Planned Parenthood was compensated for illegal fetal-tissue trafficking.

Last week, Orange County, Calif., district attorney Tony Rackauckas filed suit against two medical-research companies that allegedly profited from the sale of the body parts of aborted babies. The companies — Da Vinci Biosciences and DV Biologics — were two of the many research firms that had a relationship with Planned Parenthood clinics, as revealed by the Center for Medical Progress’s (CMP) undercover-video campaign from the summer of 2015.

According to the $1.6 million suit, Da Vinci Biosciences and DV Biologics obtained fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood clinics after abortion procedures and went on to charge excessive packing and handling fees when they redistributed the tissue to drug companies and academic institutions. It is legal for such companies to charge handling fees to cover costs associated with packaging and transfer, but both federal and state law forbid any profit from fetal-tissue sales. (Such laws are one of the primary reasons for the congressional investigation into Planned Parenthood.) Rackauckas claims that these firms charged up to $700 for tissue that cost only $20 to process, which clearly demonstrates illegal profit. The suit demands that the companies cease selling fetal tissue and reimburse the researchers who were charged excessive fees.

Despite the close relationship between these companies and Planned Parenthood, Rackauckas asserts that he found no evidence that these firms paid the group for fetal tissue, and a Planned Parenthood representative refused to comment, stating that the group was in no way involved. However, evidence unearthed this summer by the House Select Investigative Panel’s interim report and CMP proves otherwise. The House investigation — spurred by the video footage of Planned Parenthood discussing profit margins and tissue-procurement methods — revealed extensive evidence about the fetal-tissue trafficking industry, evidence that manifestly indicates illegal profit from these transactions.

First, the panel found that, in most cases, the fetal tissue in question was procured by a technician working in the abortion clinic who was employed not by Planned Parenthood, but by a middleman research firm (called a Tissue Procurement Organization (TPO), such as StemExpress or, in this case, Da Vinci Biosciences. Because such a technician manages the entire procurement process and is employed by the TPO, Planned Parenthood accrues no costs associated with the procurement of fetal tissue. Therefore, any payment Planned Parenthood receives related to the transfer of that tissue must be considered profit, because it is compensation where there were no costs.

Second, the panel found that TPOs explicitly market themselves to Planned Parenthood affiliates as a means of improving clinics’ profitability. A brochure used by one TPO to advertise itself as a partner to Planned Parenthood was entitled “Easy to implement program + financial profits” and said the partnership would provide a “financial benefit” to the clinic and be “financially profitable.” If Planned Parenthood stood to make no profit from these partnerships and fetal-tissue transfers, why do TPOs advertise these partnerships as such?

Finally, CMP discovered that Da Vinci Biosciences contributed somewhere between $1,000 and $2,500 to Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties, as stated by Planned Parenthood’s own program report from 2008 to 2009. This shows that, throughout the eight-year contract between these groups, Planned Parenthood received kickbacks from these firms for continuing to provide fetal tissue.

Though Planned Parenthood and the prosecutor of this case may attempt to obscure the facts so as to protect the abortion giant, the suit against these two research firms necessarily implicates Planned Parenthood as, at minimum, an accomplice in illegal fetal-tissue trafficking. If Da Vinci Biosciences and DV Biologics violated state and federal law, so did Planned Parenthood.


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