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House Committee announces expanded Planned Parenthood investigation

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This afternoon the House Energy and Commerce Committee announced it is expanding its current Planned Parenthood investigation.

House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders today sent letters to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Advanced Bioscience Resources, Inc. (ABR), Novogenix Laboratories, and StemExpress, requesting briefings and information regarding each organization’s practices relating to human fetal parts collection, sale, and/or donation.

These letters build on the committee’s investigation into the shocking Planned Parenthood videos released in recent weeks.

This time the House wants to hear from the fetal procurement agencies, as well as from the Planned Parenthood officials implicated in the videos that came out after the initial investigation began. In its letter to Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), the committee asks Richards for interviews with Dr. Mary Gatter, president of PPFA’s Medical Director’s Council; Ms. Melissa Farrell, director of research for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast; and Savita Ginde, M.D., vice president and medical director of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. The committee also asks for Richards to tell them the names of the other PPFA officials who work with fetal tissue donation and disposal. Richards has until August 14 to respond to the committee.

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Meanwhile, all three implicated fetal tissue procurement agencies received letters. The letters to StemExpress and ABR specifically mention a New York Times article that listed them as fetal tissue suppliers. In the letter to StemExpress CEO Cate Dyer, the committee writes:

Several videos made public in recent weeks have raised questions regarding the buying, selling, and research use of human fetal tissue. A recent New York Times article reported that StemExpress is a major supplier of fetal tissue, and that StemExpress’s revenue was reported in August 2014 to be $2.2 million, with fetal tissue accounting for about 10 percent of the company’s business.

The article also reported that StemExpress employs 37 people, including procurement technicians to obtain fetal tissue. Further, it said that a vial containing 5 million frozen liver CD 133+ stem cells can cost more than $24,000 and shipping fees abroad can cost thousands of dollars. This information suggests there may be a basis to explain StemExpress’s pricing and how costs are determined.

The letter to ABR is similar, citing the Times, as well. Ironically, it was the New York Times that wrote an editorial which suggested that the videos were invalid and the information wasn’t to be believed by any reasonable person. The editorial cited Planned Parenthood’s lawyer as a reliable source. Now it’s that same paper that is the source the Senate committee is using as a source to question these procurement agents.

The Novogenix letter simply cites the videos in which it was mentioned several times as a fetal procurement agent.

All three fetal-tissue procurement letters ask for the same items:

  1. Your organization’s procedures to assure proper informed consent for fetal tissue donation.

  2. Your organization’s practices for collecting fetal tissue, including guidance to, and training for, agents or representatives involved in the acquisition of fetal tissue.

  3. Your organization’s practices and/or policies relating to the quality or quality control of fetal tissue, and how your organization decides what types of fetal tissue to collect.

  4. The prices or fees that ABR/Novogenix/StemExpress pays for each type of fetal tissue, and how much ABR/Novogenix/StemExpress paid in 2014 for fetal tissue.

  5. The prices or fees that ABR/Novogenix/StemExpress sets for each type of fetal tissue provided to researchers, including what guidance or criteria, if any, ABR/Novogenix/StemExpress provides to researchers on prices and fees, and the total amount of fees collected and costs expended by ABR/Novogenix/StemExpress relating to fetal tissue.

  6. The number of years ABR/Novogenix/StemExpress has engaged in fetal tissue collection and whether and how ABR/Novogenix/StemExpress assures that the collection, sale and/or donation of fetal tissue is in compliance with federal and state legal requirements, or is in accordance with rules made by ethics boards by institutions buying fetal tissue from ABR/Novogenix/StemExpress.

The letter to ABR adds one more question, however. Number seven in that letter says:

For the last ten years, any contracts and/or other arrangements with the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and/or any other Federal government agency or department, including date(s) of each contract, amount(s) of each contract, and nature of deliverables or services.

The last time the committee asked Richards to make an abortionist available for questions, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, PPFA’s attorney replied that she could not yet testify. These letters ask for “informal interviews” with PPFA officials, but it’s likely Roger K. Evans, Senior Counsel  for PPFA, will reply again, as Planned Parenthood officials have not yet cooperated with any investigations, even letting hearings go on in Texas without showing up to testify.

It’s clear that this is not going to just go away, and at some point Planned Parenthood and the fetal procurement agencies are going to have to explain themselves.

The letters, all dated today, were signed by full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-PA), Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-PA), full committee Vice Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and full committee Chairman Emeritus Joe Barton (R-TX).

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