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  • Washington Highlights

    House Panel Holds Contentious Hearing on Fetal Tissue

    Tannaz Rasouli, Sr. Director, Public Policy & Strategic Outreach

    The House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives April 20 held a hearing to explore whether abortion providers and tissue procurement organizations profit illegally from the sale of human fetal tissue from abortions.

    The debate, which at times was heated, began before opening statements, when Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) challenged the validity of documents and exhibits offered by the Republicans to support their allegations that a company offered to pay abortion clinics for fetal tissue in violation of federal law. Democrats called the documents misleading and sought to have them excluded from the hearing. The panel rejected DeGette's motion on a straight party line vote.

    When asked how the documents had been obtained, Panel Chair Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said they “all have been obtained through our regular investigatory work," adding, "We have had things that come to us from whistle blowers, from subpoenas, from former employees, citizens that have filed FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] requests, the panel’s whistleblower portal, as I said, and also an Internet archive search engine.”

    Chairwoman Blackburn’s said the hearing would present “business documents, invoices, marketing brochures and management documents that reveal that one for-profit procurement business and several abortion clinics may have violated the intent of the statute and the Waxman prohibition [against profiting from the sale of fetal tissue] passed overwhelming by a Democratic controlled House.”

    In her opening statement, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), the ranking Democrat on the panel, said, “Our Republican colleagues’ disdain for the facts – and for women and their doctors – is putting researchers, doctors, and women at risk. It is time for Republican leadership to bring this investigation to an end. "

    Testifying for the Democrats, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said, "Not only do I believe that this panel is an inappropriate and wasteful misuse of federal resources, but I am gravely concerned that it also puts researchers, providers and patients across this country at risk."

    Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), the sponsor of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act (S. 2066), said the committee’s documents and exhibits show a “procurement business brochure and website that urges ‘partner with us and improve the profitability of your clinic . . . improve your clinic’s bottom line . . . financially profitable.’ That procurement business offers a payment per tissue to abortion clinics and offers to do all the work. The abortion clinic appears to have no costs. It appears to be precisely about profit....”

    Witnesses included former federal prosecutors and other attorneys who sparred over the validity of the documents and whether they demonstrated that businesses and clinics were violating the federal prohibition against the sale of fetal tissue.