- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives is calling for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to investigate whether several Planned Parenthood abortion clinics violated federal privacy law.

The Panel released new evidence Wednesday purportedly showing abortion clinics disclosing confidential medical information about patients in order to facilitate the sale of fetal body parts to procurement firm StemExpress.

Panel Chairwoman Marsha Blackburn sent a letter to HHS on Wednesday asking the agency to review the evidence and determine whether the Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act was violated.

“The key to understanding the HIPAA and consent violations that we’ve referred to HHS is that there’s a business contract between StemExpress and the abortion clinics under which both sides make a profit from the baby body parts inside the young woman’s womb,” Ms. Blackburn said in the letter.

“The contract changes the way both entities view the young woman: her baby is now a profit-center,” she said. “This betrayal of a young woman’s trust should disgust us all. It takes financial advantage, obtains consent through coercion, and deceives the woman, all in violation of federal privacy laws.”

The letter specifically names three California abortion clinics: Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, Planned Parenthood Shasta Pacific and the Family Planning Specialists Medical Group.

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The purported violations of federal law come after the Center for Medical Progress conducted an undercover video investigation into Planned Parenthood, which prompted the congressional investigation into the abortion provider.

CMP founder David Daleiden said the letter affirms his claim that Planned Parenthood broke the law in trafficking the human remains from abortions.

“StemExpress paid Planned Parenthood to break the law,” Mr. Daleiden said in a statement. “The documents released today by the Select Investigative Panel show StemExpress and the biggest Planned Parenthood affiliate in the country engaged in a five-year-long scheme to profit off aborted baby body parts using unprotected confidential information and disregarding normal patient protections, in direct violation of HIPAA and other federal laws.”

The panel released a set of documents uncovered during the course of the investigation, including contracts between the abortion clinics and StemExpress allegedly to provide sensitive medical information about patients before abortions.

The day before abortions were scheduled to take place, the letter says, StemExpress was notified by fax by the clinics and granted medical files on individual patients.

Medical staff at the clinics later directed StemExpress employees to “good candidates” for fetal tissue procurement.

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StemExpress employees also appeared to be negotiating the sale of fetal tissue with the abortion clinics “before they obtained informed consent to procure the fetal tissue,” Ms. Blackburn said.

She pointed to one email exchange in which a StemExpress employee and a clinician appeared to barter over a baby’s skull while an abortion was taking place.

“There is one case currently in the room, I will let you know how the limbs and calvarium look to see if you are able to take them in about 15 minutes,” the clinician said in the email.

The abortion clinics also gave the firm access to patient waiting terminals, where StemExpress employees conducted interviews with patients about personal medical information, the letter said

Planned Parenthood Mar Monte is the largest Planned Parenthood affiliate in the country. It was the first affiliate to begin contracting with StemExpress in April 2010.

A spokesperson for the Minority members on the panel said the letter is another example of the Republican “witch hunt” against Planned Parenthood.

“StemExpress offered to appear and answer the Panel’s questions months ago, but Republicans have refused to take them up on that offer lest they lose their last excuse for continuing this unjustified witch hunt,” the spokesperson said.

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

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