- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 16, 2016

An email exchange between a Washington state deputy attorney general and a University of Washington administrator suggests that the state Attorney General’s Office did not review critical documents before it exonerated Planned Parenthood in an investigation of fetal tissue procurement last year.

In the email chain, Deputy Attorney General Paige Dietrich asks Ian Goodhew, director of government relations for UW Medicine, for documents pertaining to the relationship between Planned Parenthood and the university’s Birth Defects Research Laboratory.

After Mr. Goodhew pushes back to make sure the documents would remain confidential, Ms. Dietrich responds that the documents would no longer be necessary for the investigation.

“I don’t think we’ll need copies of the agreements,” Ms. Dietrich says in the email.

The university’s Birth Defects laboratory receives donated fetal tissue from abortion clinics, including from at least one Planned Parenthood affiliate in the area.

A group of Washington state legislators asked Attorney General Bob Ferguson last year to investigate local Planned Parenthood chapters in the wake of the Center for Medical Progress undercover video series that alleged the nation’s largest abortion provider profits from fetal body parts from abortions.

David Daleiden, who headed the Center for Medical Progress’ undercover investigation, said the emails show that the Washington state investigation into Planned Parenthood was a “sham from start to finish.”

“It was not meant to seriously inquire into what Planned Parenthood was doing, it was just meant to whitewash it,” Mr. Daleiden said.

The email chain includes mentions of several documents pertaining to the relationship between Planned Parenthood and the Birth Defects lab, including the business associate agreement, the Institutional Review Board authorization form and training reimbursement invoices.

Mr. Daleiden said those documents “are the most important documents that you should be looking at” when investigating whether Planned Parenthood profited from the sale of fetal organs.

“The email exchange talked about documents that would potentially show compensation or any type of financial arrangement between the Planned Parenthood clinic and the University of Washington, and those documents appear to be documents that the Attorney General’s Office wasn’t even interested in looking at,” he said.

Mr. Goodhew did not recall providing the Attorney General’s Office with the documents at a later date.

“I can’t remember whether I later provided them or, of course, someone else within UW Medicine may have provided those documents to the Attorney General’s Office,” Mr. Goodhew told The Washington Times. “My best answer to you is, I don’t know whether they were delivered to the AG’s office.”

He said the documents detailed the financial relationship between Planned Parenthood and the university laboratory, including costs associated with transportation and storage of fetal tissue and organs from abortions.

Neither Planned Parenthood nor the University of Washington profited from the fetal tissue trade, he said.

“I know from review — I know it doesn’t, because the lab doesn’t pay anything to the clinic for the tissue,” Mr. Goodhew said. “It doesn’t talk about paying for, but it talks about the costs if you ship it, covering expenses.”

Asked for comment, the Attorney General’s Office referred to its previous statement on the Planned Parenthood review.

“The University of Washington supplies the shipping materials required for transport and Planned Parenthood does not receive any compensation or cost recovery for the donation of tissue,” Mr. Ferguson said in a statement after the investigation.

The email exchange was uncovered by Zach Freeman, communications director for the Family Policy Institute of Washington, in a public records request with the Attorney General’s Office in the wake of the investigation.

Mr. Freeman said the contractual documents mentioned in the email were not included in the batch of documents handed over by the Attorney General’s Office.

“They were not in the attorney general’s — I filed a public records request — those documents they requested were not included when I received the documents,” Mr. Freeman said. “I know they exist, because UW admitted that they did and offered to show them to the attorney general.”

He filed a separate public records request with the University of Washington for the documents in February. The university put off the request for several months, saying it needed to notify third parties named in the documents. The university said the request would be fulfilled by April 25, then June 8, then Aug. 5.

On Aug. 3 Planned Parenthood sued the University of Washington; Mr. Daleiden, who had filed a public records request of his own; and Mr. Freeman to suppress the release of the documents. Planned Parenthood said third parties named in the documents would be subject to targeted harassment if their names and contact information were made public.

Mr. Daleiden said the University of Washington’s Birth Defects Research Laboratory is significant because documents detailing its relationship with Planned Parenthood are subject to public records laws.

Furthermore, in response to the Center for Medical Progress video series, Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, touted the abortion provider’s relationship with the Birth Defects lab as the gold standard for how to handle fetal tissue donations.

In an October letter to the National Institutes of Health, which provides the Birth Defects lab with nearly $700,000 in annual funding, Ms. Richards said going forward all Planned Parenthood clinics would “follow the same policy” for fetal tissue donations as the one modeled in Washington.

Mr. Daleiden said, if that’s the case, then Planned Parenthood should be “proud to have these records released.”

“They should gladly turn all of them over in response to a public records request like this,” Mr. Daleiden said. “But instead they’ve stormed into court with another lawsuit to try to shut the whole thing down.”

• Bradford Richardson can be reached at brichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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