Republicans on the special House panel investigating the transfer of fetal tissue from aborted babies will present evidence in a hearing today that breaks down the price per body part.
With release of this evidence, Republicans say, they have enough documentation to show that several abortion clinics and middleman procurement businesses may have violated federal law.
“It is just horrifying,” Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., who leads the House’s investigation of the fetal tissue industry, told The Daily Signal. “They are putting a dollar value on these organs from these children—unborn children that have been aborted. It is just beyond belief.”
According to Republicans involved in the investigation, a researcher paid a middleman procurement company $3,340 for a fetal brain, $595 for a “baby skull matched to upper and lower limbs,” and $890 for “upper and lower limbs with hands and feet.”
Middleman procurement businesses are companies that obtain tissue and other body parts from aborted babies and provide them to institutions or other organizations for research. Under federal law, the transportation of fetal tissue is based on a nonprofit model.
The committee’s documents, which will be used today in a House hearing on the pricing of fetal tissue, include payments made from a middleman procurement company to an abortion clinic on a monthly basis. Those dollar amounts range from $6,010 to $11,365.
Over the span of a year, one research institution paid a middleman company $42,535 to obtain 38 fetal brains, 12 fetal hearts, three fetal upper/lower limbs, five fetal livers, and 12 fetal pancreases, according to the select House panel’s documents.
The Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, as it is formally known, was created on Oct. 7, 2015, when the House passed a resolution calling for a full and complete investigation regarding the medical practices of abortion service providers and the business practices of the procurement organizations that sell fetal tissue.
In the most recent documents being released, the panel did not publicly identify companies or individuals involved in the transactions “out of an abundance of caution,” Blackburn told The Daily Signal in a phone interview prior to the hearing.
Because the documents were highly redacted, The Daily Signal was unable to independently confirm the prices of each body part.
However, the panel announced earlier this year that it was issuing subpoenas to companies and organizations that refused to cooperate with the investigation. Those groups included StemExpress, Ganogen, Biomedical Research Institute of America, the University of New Mexico, and Southwestern Women’s Options.
Democrats on the select panel have called the investigation a “witch hunt” by Blackburn and other Republicans who oppose abortion.
As The Daily Signal has previously reported, Democrats have condemned the panel’s investigators for requesting the names of doctors, medical students, researchers, and others involved in the abortion and fetal tissue procurement industries, arguing that obtaining those names could make the panel “complicit in physical assaults or murders of these people.”
But with the imminent release of the next round of evidence, Blackburn said she is hopeful Democrats “will recognize that we are taking every possible precaution and doing our best to fulfill the requirement that Congress has made of us.”
The 1993 National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act prohibits profiting from the sale of any fetal tissue. However, it is legal to provide and accept payment to cover reasonable costs for “transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue.”
Among documents uncovered in the investigation is an image of a procurement company marketing itself to abortion clinics as “financially profitable.” The name of that company also was redacted.
Questions about whether abortion clinics and middleman procurement companies profit from transactions involving body parts and other fetal tissue from aborted babies were raised after a series of videos published last year. The hidden-camera videos showed officials at Planned Parenthood affiliates discussing the buying and selling of fetal tissue with a middleman company, StemExpress.
Cate Dyer, founder of StemExpress, told The New York Times in July that her company “obtained fetal tissue in accordance with the rules made by ethics boards at the institutions buying it.”
In that article, Dyer also was quoted as saying the process of obtaining fetal cells is “hard,” “expensive,” and takes “millions of dollars of equipment.”
Planned Parenthood Federation of America consistently has denied any wrongdoing and was cleared in multiple state investigations. In October, after facing questions about its fetal tissue donation practices, Planned Parenthood announced it would no longer accept any reimbursement as part of its tissue donation program.
During today’s hearing, called “The Pricing of Fetal Tissue,” Republicans were expected to call Brian Patrick Lennon, a former assistant U.S. attorney from Michigan, to testify as a witness.
In his written testimony, released in advance, Lennon argues that based on the evidence, an “ethical federal prosecutor could establish probable cause that both the abortion clinics and the procurement business violated the [federal] statute (42 U.S.C. § 289g-2), aided and abetted one another in violating the statute (18 U.S.C. § 2), and likely conspired together to violate the statute (18 U.S.C. § 371).”
Republicans also were scheduled to hear testimony from Michael Norton, a former U.S. attorney for the state of Colorado; Catherine Glenn Foster, associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute and CEO and general counsel at Sound Legal; and Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., who is pro-life, among others.
Democrats were slated to bring in Fay Clayton, a lawyer who formerly represented the Anatomical Gift Foundation, a nonprofit corporation that provided donated tissue to medical researchers.
In her prepared statement, Clayton criticizes Republicans for “using [the panel’s] subpoena power to compel testimony from health care providers and medical researchers” and for failing to subpoena David Daleiden, founder of the Center for Medical Progress, the pro-life group behind the string of undercover videos targeting Planned Parenthood.
“The fact that the select panel has been using its subpoena power to compel testimony from health care providers and medical researchers—who have better things to do with their time than Mr. Daleiden does—suggests the panel is not genuinely interested in public policy at all,” Clayton says in the written statement.
Democrats also were set to hear from Robert Raben, president and founder of the Raben Group, a progressive policy group, and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., a pro-choice lawmaker.
Witnesses likely will be asked to respond to Blackburn and other panel members who, the chairman said, “believe that it is more than likely that payments to the abortion clinics and to the procurement businesses have exceeded reasonable cost.”
LifeNews Note: Kelsey Harkness writes for The Daily Signal, where this column originally appeared.