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Grassley seeks criminal charges against Planned Parenthood, fetal tissue procurement organizations

Charles Grassley

WASHINGTON – Following an investigation into the practice of fetal tissue transfers and the federal laws governing the practice, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley is referring several Planned Parenthood affiliates and companies involved in fetal tissue transfers, as well as the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, to the FBI and the Department of Justice for investigation and possible prosecution.

“I don’t take lightly making a criminal referral.  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,” Grassley said.  “And, unless there is a renewed commitment by everyone involved against commercializing the trade in aborted fetal body parts for profit, then the problem is likely to continue.”

Grassley’s referral follows the completion of a Senate Judiciary Committee majority staff analysis of more than 20,000 pages of documents provided voluntarily by the organizations and companies involved.  While the impetus for the investigation was the release of a series of videos regarding transfers of fetal tissue by the Center for Medical Progress, the committee’s analysis and findings are based strictly on the documents obtained independently from tissue procurement companies and Planned Parenthood.

The Majority Staff Report concludes:
•    Despite the clear legislative history of the 1993 NIH Revitalization Act, the executive branch across multiple administrations has failed to enforce the law’s safeguards.

•    Since 2010, three companies – Advanced Bioscience Resources, Inc.; StemExpress, LLC; and Novogenix Laboratories, LLC (Novogenix has since gone out of business) – have paid affiliates of Planned Parenthood Federation of America to acquire aborted fetuses, and then sold the fetal tissue to their respective customers at substantially higher prices than their documented costs.

•    The Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) initially had a policy in place to ensure its affiliates were complying with the law, but the affiliates failed to follow its fetal tissue reimbursement policy.  When PPFA learned in 2011 of this situation, PPFA cancelled the policy rather than exercise oversight to bring the affiliates back into compliance.   Thus, PPFA not only turned a blind eye to the affiliates’ violations of its fetal tissue policy, but also altered its own oversight procedures enabling those affiliates’ practices to continue unimpeded.

•    The cost analyses provided by affiliates of Planned Parenthood Federation of America lack sufficient documentation and rely on unreasonably broad and vague claims of costs for “the transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control or storage of” fetal tissue.  Planned Parenthood attorneys acknowledge that the affiliates had failed to follow procedures put in place to ensure compliance with the law.  In addition, the cost analyses were only performed long after the fact and at the insistence of the committee.

The full report details the long history of the controversy surrounding human fetal tissue research and the bipartisan legislative approach taken to resolve the issue at the time, as well as the subsequent lack of enforcement.  As the report explains, “Support for the 1993 NIH Revitalization Act was premised on the idea that the ban on buying or selling fetal tissue would be a safeguard against the development for a market for human fetuses.  Tragically, the executive branch has either failed or simply refused to enforce that safeguard.  As a result, contrary to the intent of the law, companies have charged thousands of dollars for specimens removed from a single aborted fetus; they have claimed the fees they charged only recovered acceptable costs when they had not, in fact, conducted any analysis of their costs when setting the fees; and their post hoc accounting rationalizations invoked indirect and tenuously-related costs in an attempt to justify their fees.”

The report can be found here.

The referral can be found here.

Senator Joni Ernst

Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) issued the following statement on Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley’s decision to refer the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, its affiliates, and fetal tissue procurement organizations to the FBI and the Department of Justice for an investigation into whether they engaged in the buying and selling of harvested organs of unborn babies in violation of federal law:

“I appreciate the diligent work of Chairman Grassley and the Senate Judiciary Committee in conducting a thorough investigation into the allegations surrounding Planned Parenthood’s role in the procurement and transfer of the organs of unborn babies. While I am still reviewing the extensive report, I hope that the Committee’s decision to make a criminal referral to the FBI and Department of Justice for investigation and potential criminal prosecution will serve as an important step in Congress’s efforts to get to the bottom of the serious legal questions that have been raised.

“Regardless, taxpayers should not be forced to foot the bill for roughly a half a billion dollars annually for an organization exhibiting such disrespect for human life. Rather, this federal funding should be redirected to other eligible providers of women’s health care, such as community health centers and hospitals which provide greater preventative and primary health care services regardless of a person’s ability to pay.”

Last year, Senator Ernst introduced legislation to protect women’s health and defund Planned Parenthood (S.1881), which received bipartisan support.

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