Abortion clinics and the businesses that purchase aborted baby parts likely conspired to violate federal laws against fetal human organ trafficking, expert witnesses at a House hearing testified yesterday. Evidence of a widespread market for unborn baby parts — down to the tongue, scalp, eyes — was introduced at a testy hearing of the House Select Panel on Infant Lives.
Here are the 11 big takeaways from the hearing chaired by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, (R-TN).
1) Federal Law Prohibits Profiting Off of Aborted Baby Parts
In 1993, the House passed the National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act of 1993 with an amendment stating, “It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any human fetal tissue for valuable consideration if the transfer affects interstate commerce.” Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA), the abortion rights proponent who pushed the amendments, said at the time, “It would be abhorrent to allow the sale of fetal tissue and a market to be established for that sale.”
Witnesses such as Catherine Glenn Foster of the Charlotte Lozier Institute testified that the law has not been enforced in the last 23 years, permitting just such a market to flourish.
2) The Basic Business Model for Aborted Baby Parts
Abortion clinics supply the aborted baby parts to researchers through a “procurement business” middleman. Researchers pay some amount of money to the procurement business. The procurement business pays the abortion clinic for the human organs they supply via abortion. And the abortion clinic receives payment for the organs and tissue they obtain. Payment is permitted for “reasonable costs,” associated with securing the aborted baby parts.
The procurement industry markets itself to abortion clinics as a way to improve their profitability. In a section of one procurement company brochure titled “Easy to implement program + financial profits,” the company stated that partnering with them would provide “a financial benefit to your clinic,” and was “financially profitable.” The brochure also featured an endorsement from Dr. Dorothy Furgerson of Planned Parenthood Mar Monte.
The market for aborted baby parts was good for at least one procurement company, which was poised to do business with 250 abortion clinics before undercover videos exposed fetal organ sales and drew unwanted attention to the practice.
3) Abortion Clinics Aren’t Incurring Costs
Federal law permits payment for reasonable costs associated with the procurement of aborted baby parts. But under the business model being investigated, the procurement business sends its own technician into an abortion clinic to do the work of securing the human organs. The costs are incurred by the procurement business, but the abortion clinic still gets paid money.
“Every conceivable task is performed by the procurement business employees” and not abortion clinic staff, according to committee staff presenting information from one procurement business. The customer places an order for tissue; the order is posted for a procurement technician to see; the technician reviews the medical files of women and girls who have abortions scheduled for the day; the technician informs the clinic about tissues needed for orders; the technician obtains consent from patients based on gestation and order data; the technician procures the body parts requested; the technician packages and ships the tissue to the customer; the technician records invoices for the clinic; and, finally, the middleman pays the clinic per tissue sample.
Investigators released evidence of guidance given to procurement technicians showing that they alone manage the entire organ procurement process — from targeting specific women for baby parts based on order demands to shipping the body parts to the customer. There was no evidence shown that abortion clinics incur costs as part of the process.
This business model might explain why Planned Parenthood announced in October that it would no longer accept money for aborted baby parts. To accept money, when there are no reasonable costs associated with providing the parts, would be a clear violation of the law.
Or as Foster said, “Abortion clinics are being promised a profit and are paid even when they have no apparent costs to be reimbursed, which further multiplies a clinic’s windfall via savings on disposal services. Tissue procurement companies are likewise paid exorbitantly by their customers. This market in baby organs and tissues demonstrates a flagrant and repeated disregard for the rule of law. It was no surprise when America’s biggest abortion business, facing public and prosecutorial exposure, relented and agreed to end its longstanding practice of receiving direct payments for baby body parts.”
4) The Market for Aborted Baby Parts Is Very Specific
Evidence was released at the hearing showing a drop-down menu order form where researchers can order any and all baby body parts, including brain, heart, lungs, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, esophagus, tongue, and scalp. Yes, scalp.
5) Aborted Baby Parts Are Valuable
One of the most interesting things about the revelation that abortion clinics sell fetal body parts is that the unborn child is not considered a valuable human when it comes to ending her life prematurely, but her body parts are considered incredibly valuable precisely because of her humanity. Invoices regarding the sale and transfer of fetal organs were presented at the hearing. One customer paid $22,610 for 38 fetal brains. Another paid $3,340 for a fetal brain, $595 for a “baby skull matched to upper and lower limbs,” and $890 for “upper and lower limbs with hands and feet.”
6) Everyone Agrees: Forensic Audits Are Needed
Investigators have begun to find evidence of a significant market for fetal organs. They know that there are profitable procurement businesses that have exploded in growth in recent years. They know that hundreds of abortion clinics are partnered with these procurement businesses. And they have evidence that abortion clinics were paid for the organs from aborted children, even though the procurement business handled all of the costs.
When income exceeds costs, that’s profit. Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics claimed they didn’t profit from their sale of human organs.
Witnesses testifying at the hearing for both the Republicans and the Democrats said that the committee needs to subpoena financial records from procurement businesses and abortion clinics in order to determine whether these sales violate the law.
Brian Patrick Lennon, a former Assistant United States Attorney in Michigan, reviewed the evidence presented for the hearing and said that there was enough for a “competent, ethical federal prosecutor” to “establish probable cause that both the abortion clinics and the procurement business violated the statute, aided and abetted one another in violating the statute, and likely conspired together to violate the statute.” However, he said that forensic accounting and analysis were absolutely needed to determine whether the payments to those involved in the business were in excess of what the law permits.
No state investigation has involved forensic auditing, and no federal investigation has thus far.
7) Democratic Members Are Upset at Investigation
From the moment the hearing started, Democratic members of the panel, such as Rep. Diana DeGette, (D-Planned Parenthood) attempted to keep the evidence of fetal organ markets from being discussed. Evidence revealed that they are working with procurement businesses attorneys to fight the investigation. That bolstered reporting from The New York Times that Democrats on the committee are helping others in the fetal organ market hide information sought by investigators.
The strenuous Democratic efforts to fight the evidence, to help those in the industry thwart investigation, and to question the very investigation into fetal organ markets were difficult to ignore.
Democratic members’ strategy appeared to be 1) fight discussion of evidence; 2) say the investigation is too expensive; 3) issue Planned Parenthood talking points against The Center for Medical Progress videos (which were not a topic of discussion at this hearing); and 4) claim that the evidence of fetal organ markets didn’t show fetal organ markets. When shown the drop-down order menu for fetal scalps, for instance, DeGette said it wasn’t evidence of fetal organ markets. This would be akin to looking at the Amazon.com website and saying it doesn’t suggest you can buy books online.
This strategy wasn’t particularly effective at the hearing, but it does show the danger of believing one’s own talking points. An independent audit showed that The Center for Medical Progress videos were not deceptively edited, and Planned Parenthood itself conceded that the statements by its staff featured in the video were not manipulated. But Planned Parenthood supporters (and recipients of Planned Parenthood campaign donations, such as those on the panel) and their allies in the media protested that the videos were nevertheless fraudulent. Their talking point from the very beginning has been that the whole story is made up. Faced with overwhelming evidence of a fetal organ market, the response was to fight discussion of the evidence and then to claim that the evidence didn’t really show what it seemed to show. In that sense, their performance at the hearing is similar to the pro-choice movement’s response to the initial videos. Who are you going to believe, Jerry Nadler or your own lying eyes? They’re banking on the media believing Nadler. (And it’s not a bad bet!)
8) Democrats Struggling with Consistency on Discretion
Throughout the investigation, Democrats have claimed to be worried that investigating those involved in fetal organ markets will put them at risk. At the hearing yesterday, Republican staff removed all identifying information of the people and companies being discussed. However, Democratic members revealed names while discussing the evidence. Even more, they complained that the Republican staff had redacted the names.
9) Consent Process Raises Questions about Minors, HIPAA
The hearing showed that the procurement business technicians “consent” the women and girls who seek abortions. Some witnesses noted that the technicians have access to the names and private information of the individual seeking the abortion and will call her out by name to discuss “donating” the body parts of her unborn child. If she consents, she signs a form. One witness raised the issue of the third party business having access to this information. Another noted that many abortion clinics are performing abortions on minors, raising a question of whether the minor even can consent to the tissue “donation.”
10) Media Still Lagging on Major Story
Bethlehem College professor Joe Rigney made an excellent point about the relative lack of media interest in this human rights story about fetal organ harvesting. He said, “Journalists like to think that, when faced with coverup of great evil, they’d do what the Globe team did in the movie Spotlight.” Their conduct with the revelation of fetal organ harvesting and selling shows the exact opposite, he said. “They’re not the brave exposer of institutional evil. They’re the bishop talking about how much good the Church does for the neighborhood, so let’s keep this abuse thing quiet.”
This hearing did have media interest, and many reporters are covering it well. But when a hearing reveals evidence of a significant market in fetal organ sales — in a year when that very claim has been fought over — much more coverage is needed. And when congressional investigators are doing a better job than journalists of finding out information, it’s flat out embarrassing. The expert witnesses who testified today about minors, HIPAA, and conspiracies involving abortion clinics and procurement businesses were witnesses that members of the media could have interviewed in previous months.
11) Daleiden Vindicated
Perhaps the best way to sum up this hearing was that it revealed evidence that vindicates David Daleiden and The Center for Medical Progress. Daleiden showed that abortion clinics were selling human organs from the babies they abort, that there is a market for such body parts, and that this raises questions of violations of federal law.
Daleiden said, after the hearing, “The undercover video admissions by senior-level Planned Parenthood officials only scratch the surface of this barbaric trade. The financial documents uncovered by the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives prove that Planned Parenthood profited from trafficking fetal organs and tissues. We now know the criminal trade in body parts is spread nationwide throughout the abortion industry, with nearly one in five abortion clinics selling baby parts to StemExpress. Even the pro-Planned Parenthood witnesses called by the panel minority agreed that a robust investigation should seek testimony and accounting documents from Planned Parenthood.”
That’s why Planned Parenthood’s staunchest defenders tried to keep the evidence at the hearing from being discussed.