Thursday, December 1, 2016

The special committee of Congress looking into the sale of fetal tissue has recommended that prosecutors investigate one Planned Parenthood affiliate and referred a handful of other organizations for criminal or regulatory probes, a panel member revealed Thursday.

Planned Parenthood of the Gulf Coast violated both Texas and U.S. laws when it sold body parts to the University of Texas, Rep. Mia B. Love, Utah Republican, said on the House floor, detailing the progress of the Select Investigative Panel that is conducting the probe.

The revelations came just hours before the House voted to extend the committee’s work, allocating another $800,000 in a 234-181 vote that broke down almost entirely along party lines.

“Over the last year, we have held hearings that explored the bioethics surrounding fetal tissue use and that revealed the sobering reality of how some bad actors seek to profit from the sale of fetal tissue in violation of federal law,” said committee Chairwoman Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee Republican.

Democratic leaders countered that the probe was “built on a pack of lies,” and disputed Republicans’ claims that they have found wrongdoing.

Rep. Janice D. Schakowsky of Illinois, the panel’s top Democrat, said the effect of the yearlong investigation has been to chill research, “drying up the supply of needed tissue for research on multiple sclerosis and threatening research on other diseases including Alzheimer’s and diabetes.”

“We cannot afford to let a set of reckless and irresponsible claims stop this vital medical research,” she said.

The panel was formed after an undercover investigation by the Center for Medical Progress released videos apparently showing senior Planned Parenthood officials negotiating the sale of tissue taken from aborted fetuses. Such sales are against federal law when they are done for profit.

Planned Parenthood insisted it didn’t break any laws, but it has apologized in the wake of the videos and has changed its practices.

Prosecutors and legislative panels in states have also pursued investigations on all sides of the issue. One Texas prosecutor charged David Daleiden, head of the Center for Medical Progress, with trafficking of human organs and with using a fake ID to gain access for his investigation.

The trafficking charge has been tossed out of court, and the prosecutor lost her bid for re-election last month, stung also by her decision to jail a rape victim to ensure the woman would testify against her attacker.

Ms. Love, who revealed the committee’s referrals Thursday, said they include several accusations against StemExpress, concluding that the company was profiting from the sale of fetal body parts and was violating privacy laws.

She also said abortion clinics in Arkansas and Ohio broke state laws by trafficking fetal tissue.

Earlier this year, the panel held StemExpress in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over documents.

The company said it had turned over hundreds of documents and had offered to testify, but said it felt targeted by the investigation.

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