WASHINGTON — An FBI request for unredacted Planned Parenthood documents from the U.S. Senate could signal an investigation into whether the abortion giant illegally sold fetal tissue from aborted babies.
The request was made to the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose chairman, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, referred Planned Parenthood and several other organizations that perform abortions to the FBI after the committee investigated their practices of transferring fetal tissue. The report comes from The Hill news site, which cited unnamed sources familiar with the document request.
The Center for Medical Progress in 2015 released undercover videos appearing to show Planned Parenthood and other abortion industry leaders engaged in the illegal sale of the tissue and body parts.
David Daleiden, who heads the center, said Nov. 13 the investigation is “long overdue,” adding that the “sale of aborted baby body parts is the greatest human atrocity of our times and must finally be brought to justice under the law.”
Federal law generally prohibits the sale of human organs but does allow for the transfer of fetal tissue for medical research with compensation, provided the compensation is not “valuable consideration,” but is “reasonable,” to cover expenses such as operating and shipping costs.
In December, Grassley said the committee’s final report had uncovered enough evidence to show that abortion providers had charged research firms more than their actual costs for fetal tissue and aborted babies’ body parts.
“The report documents the failure of the Department of Justice, across multiple administrations, to enforce the law that bans the buying and selling of human fetal tissue,” Grassley said. There was “substantial evidence” that the providers or their employees may have violated the law.
One firm paid $60 for an unborn baby’s body that had been aborted at a Planned Parenthood facility. They transferred various parts for $2,275 and charged fees for shipping and disease screening, the committee report said.
Some companies engaged in after-the-fact accounting to rationalize their fees, the report said, charging that they have been free to “receive substantial payment with impunity” by relying on an expansive interpretation of an exception to the law against buying and selling fetal tissue.
Dana Singiser, vice president of government affairs for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said Planned Parenthood strongly disagreed with the recommendations to refer the question to the Department of Justice.
“These accusations are baseless and a part of a widely discredited attempt to end access to reproductive health care at Planned Parenthood,” Singiser said, claiming the agency “has never, and would never, profit while facilitating its patients’ choice to donate fetal tissue for use in important medical research.”
Grassley’s staff is reportedly working to fulfill the document request in compliance with Senate rules. If copies of the documents need to be transferred to a grand jury, a full Senate vote would be required, The Hill reports.
Documents hacked from the Open Societies Foundation and posted to the site DCLeaks.com last year appeared to show Planned Parenthood’s allies and funders engaged in a multimillion-dollar damage-control campaign to counter the fallout from the videos.
“While Planned Parenthood has had to defend against a variety of attacks by abortion opponents in recent years, the release of these videos and the related attacks were severe and without warning,” one document said. “Countering this offensive requires an enormous amount of resources and staff time, which is the intent of the opposition.”
The document, apparently written weeks after the July 2015 release of the first Center for Medical Progress videos, cited a need to defend the reputation and credibility of the provider and to defend it against potential loss of federal funding.