The FBI has asked the U.S. Senate for redacted documents obtained from abortion providers pertaining to their involvement in fetal harvesting, signaling a possible investigation into Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers for the illegal sales of fetal tissue and body parts, The Hill reports. The move comes nearly one year after Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) referred Planned Parenthood to the FBI at the conclusion of a Senate investigation into the matter.
The Senate probe into Planned Parenthood and its affiliates was prompted by the release of undercover videos from the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) involving the sale of fetal tissue. The videos included secretly recorded comments from executives of Planned Parenthood and StemExpress (the latter organization a premier source or human primary cells), as well as undercover footage from clinics. The damning videos featured Planned Parenthood officials admitting to altering abortion procedures to procure fetal tissue, as well as selling fetal tissue for profit. Another video also revealed that StemExpress did not always obtain consent from mothers to use fetal tissue.
In addition to the legal questions the videos raised, many criticized the barbarity of the fetal organ harvesting industry that the video footage captured. In a video released on August 19, for example, former StemExpress procurement technician Holly O’Donnell recalls encountering “fetuses” that still had beating hearts. The former technician went on to describe how her supervisor so callously referred to the beating heart as “cool.”
The law at issue bans anyone from profiting from the exchange of fetal tissue, but permits organizations to receive "reasonable payments" for the tissue. The broadly defined term undermines the ban, according to one medical ethicist, who told the New York Times in 2015, “It appears to be legal, no matter how much you charge. It’s a very gray and musty area as to what you can charge.”
Still, one example cited in the Senate report reveals just how much firms were profiting from these sales. According to one organization’s own records, it paid $60 for an aborted infant from a Planned Parenthood clinic, then sold the various body parts for $2,275.
Planned Parenthood has adamantly denied any wrongdoing, stating that the organization had not sought any payments beyond what is legally permissible. The abortion provider claims that an FBI investigation into its body-part harvesting is unwarranted.
“Planned Parenthood strongly disagrees with the recommendations of the Senate Republican staff to refer this matter to the Justice Department, especially in light of the fact that investigations by three other congressional committees, and investigations in 13 states including a grand jury in Texas, have all shown that Planned Parenthood did nothing wrong,” said Dana Singiser, vice president of government affairs for Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
She added, “These accusations are baseless, and a part of a widely discredited attempt to end access to reproductive health care at Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood has never, and would never, profit while facilitating its patients’ choice to donate fetal tissue for use in important medical research."
But Grassley contends that the Senate investigation found that the organizations involved may have violated the law and that the prices paid for fetal tissue and body parts far exceeded the actual costs.
The Senate investigation report stated, “The companies involved in transferring fetal tissue have been free to receive substantial payment with impunity, relying on an expansive interpretation of the exception to the ban on buying and selling fetal tissue.”
Until now, however, the only group to experience any sort of fallout from CMP's undercover videos is the CMP itself. As noted by The Hill, two of the group's executives had been charged with state privacy violations for making the undercover tapes. While the charges have since been dropped in Texas, they remain pending in California.
David Daleiden, head of the Center for Medical Progress, said Monday that an FBI probe is “long overdue” and that the ”sale of aborted baby body parts is the greatest human atrocity of our times and must finally be brought to justice under the law.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Tuesday that Planned Parenthood executives and parties who participated in the illegal sale of fetal body parts may be indicted if the FBI finds enough damning evidence, the Daily Caller reports.
“Verifying the findings of Congress could provide a basis for charges,” Sessions said at the House Judiciary Committee’s Tuesday hearing.