The Corner

Law & the Courts

Yet Another Criminal Referral for Planned Parenthood and Its Affiliates

Senator Chuck Grassley, who serves as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced this afternoon that he has referred Planned Parenthood for America and several of its local affiliates to the FBI and the Justice Department for investigation and possible prosecution. These referrals are the result of Grassley’s ongoing investigation into the group’s involvement in fetal-tissue transfers and violations of federal law related to the fetal-tissue trafficking industry.

“I don’t take lightly making a criminal referral,” Grassley said in a release Tuesday afternoon. “But, the seeming disregard for the law by these entities has been fueled by decades of utter failure by the Justice Department to enforce it.”

In the wake of last summer’s Center for Medical Progress (CMP) videos depicting Planned Parenthood affiliates illegally profiting from fetal tissue, the Senate Judiciary Committee majority staff began to analyze over 20,000 pages of documents provided voluntarily by the organizations and companies involved. Their report concludes that, since 2010, three tissue-procurement organizations (TPOs) — Advanced Bioscience Resources, StemExpress, and Novogenix Laboratories (which has since gone out of business) — have paid Planned Parenthood affiliates to acquire aborted fetuses and sold that fetal tissue to customers at substantially higher prices than their documented costs.

Though Planned Parenthood had an initial policy to ensure that all affiliates were complying with federal law on the transfer of fetal tissue (in other words, not accepting financial compensation for those transfers), several affiliates failed to follow the fetal-tissue reimbursement policy. According to the report, Planned Parenthood learned in 2011 of these violations but cancelled the policy rather than requiring affiliates to comply. The group not only turned a blind eye to these violations but also altered its oversight procedures in order to enable those violations to continue.

The report also found that Planned Parenthood’s financial reports lack sufficient documentation and use broad and vague claims such as “transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control or storage of” fetal tissue to justify its costs, leaving room for hidden profit. In addition, these cost analyses were performed long after the fact and only at the insistence of the Senate committee. Finally, the report noted that the executive branch has largely failed to enforce the safeguards against profiting from fetal-tissue transfers, as outlined by the 1993 NIH Revitalization Act.

This latest referral comes in the wake of recent news that the House Select Panel on Infant Lives had issued its eighth criminal referral in the course of its separate, ongoing investigation into the fetal-tissue trafficking industry. Most of the House panel’s referrals were made to state law-enforcement agencies; possible violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) were referred to the Health and Human Service Department.

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