After news broke last spring that the University of Pittsburgh is using aborted babies for taxpayer-funded medical research, often in barbaric experiments, Pitt asked an independent firm to conduct an investigation into their researchers’ compliance with state and federal laws. The findings of that investigation were released last week, but the report arguably raises more questions than it answers.
Hyman, Phelps and McNamara (HPM), the D.C.-based law firm hired to conduct the “regulatory assessment,” said they found Pitt’s academic research with human fetal tissue to be “fully compliant with applicable laws.” But a close reading of the 40-page report shows that HPM intentionally limited the scope of their investigation, allowing investigators to turn a blind eye to some of the most damning allegations related to fetal tissue research.
Where Do Babies Come From?
HPM admits they did not investigate the two university clinics where university researchers source their aborted fetal tissue: the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, where more abortions are performed than in any other hospital in the state.
HPM reasoned they could only investigate activities for which Pitt has regulatory control, and that excludes UPMC because it is a private nonprofit that the university “has no role in managing or supervising.” This is a significant omission because some of the most atrocious allegations, including labor-induced, partial-birth abortions, occur at UPMC. Investigators instead focused on fetal tissue that is collected and distributed by the Pitt Biospecimen Core (PBC). What investigators failed to mention is that PBC laboratories are located inside UPMC hospitals, including one in the Magee-Womens Hospital.
HPM tried to justify the serious omission with a caveat that even though they cannot hold Pitt responsible for UPMC, they did evaluate “whether Pitt satisfied its independent duty to confirm compliance of specified activities related to fetal tissue undertaken by UPMC.” In the limited investigating they did do of UPMC, HPM found issues with incomplete forms at UPMC used for obtaining consent from pregnant women to use their babies’ organs for research. Those forms were included in the report and tell us a lot about how consent is obtained.
HPM’s report said they did “consider” whether there were any conflicts of interest between Pitt and Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania, and found there were no “illegal arrangements,” but did not provide any details on who they spoke to or how they arrived at that conclusion. Yet they felt the need to explain that if Pitt did have contracts with Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania, such an arrangement would not be “inherently unlawful.”
“There is no law preventing Pitt from supporting Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania if it chooses to do so,” HPM investigators wrote.
There may be no law, but conflicts of interests between Pitt and PPFA do run amok. Not only do Pitt faculty moonlight as abortionists at a PPFA abortion clinic located just six minutes away from Magee-Womens Hospital, but in 2014, Center for Medical Progress’s David Daleiden recorded videos of Planned Parenthood associates admitting, “there is a tissue bank at Pitt that we offer patients to donate to.”
A vice chair of Pitt’s Institutional Review Board (IRB), Dr. Beatrice Chen, is also the medical director of Planned Parenthood Western Pennsylvania and oversees Planned Parenthood’s abortion training fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh. Chen, who also serves as Magee’s director of family planning, was listed in an annual report from Pitt as “outreach/contracted care,” along with three other doctors for Planned Parenthood Western Pennsylvania.
The IRB, a focus of HPM’s investigation, “is responsible for reviewing applications to conduct research involving human subjects conducted at the University,” yet they simply concluded that Chen had “no conflicts or violations.”
Pitt has denied it has any “procurement relationship” with Planned Parenthood.
The study that first caught the public’s attention about how taxpayer dollars are being spent involved grafting aborted baby scalps onto the backs of rats, who were then deemed “humanized.” The study, which was funded by Anthony Fauci’s National Institutes of Health, includes graphic photos showing little infant hairs growing on rodents’ backs, the same way they would on a healthy child’s head, as well a note about where researchers obtained the baby scalps:
De-identified human fetal tissues at the gestational age of 18 to 20 weeks were obtained from medically or elective indicated termination of pregnancy through Magee-Womens Hospital of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), with the University of Pittsburgh, Health Sciences Tissue Bank.
HPM’s report contradicts that note included in the study, claiming that of the 31 studies they reviewed, this particular study was one of five that did not obtain fetal tissue from the Pitt Biospecimen Core (located within UPMC hospitals). Instead, HPM says, this particular study obtained their tissue from a commercial tissue supplier, Advanced Bioscience Resources (ABR).
If ABR sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the commercial tissue supplier who was exposed for trafficking baby body parts from Planned Parenthood facilities to researchers, and essentially became PPFA’s scapegoat when they were first caught selling those baby body parts in 2015.
It remains unclear where the baby scalps for this study were obtained. Were they from ABR, as HPM found, or from UPMC, as the researchers who conducted the study wrote? What is Pitt trying to hide by contradicting its own research?
Abortion’s ‘Potential Benefit’
Although HPM declined to hold Pitt responsible for any activities at UPMC or Magee-Womens UPMC, investigators found “primarily technical,” but not legal issues with how the hospital obtained consent from women being asked to contribute their aborted baby’s organs and tissue.
Investigators focused on consent forms they found unsigned, as well as whether the person performing the abortion is involved in obtaining the consent. In focusing on this issue, investigators included the four-page form from Magee-Womens UPMC entitled “Consent To Act As a Participant In Research – Fetal Tissue Consent Form” in their report. Statements on this form entice women with abortion, saying donating their baby “may contribute to a new discovery or treatment,” calling it a “potential benefit to society.”
In order to prevent any kind of persuasion, state law requires clinicians to wait 24 hours after a woman has consented to an abortion before presenting her a donation consent form. Yet it’s entirely possible that a woman who arrives for her appointment but has changed her mind about undergoing an abortion is influenced after a nurse or abortionist consults with her about donation.
“Structuring a policy that allows elective abortions for experiments for research and ‘new discovery’ is a perverse incentive on women and families. This practice must end,” said Retired Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge Cheryl Allen in a statement.
We Still Need Answers
Pitt and the lawyers they hired at HPM clearly have no intention of addressing the initial allegations or answering questions such as: Did Pitt facilities perform illegal partial-birth abortions or infanticide in operating a fetal kidney harvesting program? Instead, the report backfired, raising even more questions that lawmakers and taxpayers must demand answers to.
Those include: Why did investigators choose not to explore the relationship between Pitt and UPMC, in terms of both finances and shared resources? And why is Pitt now contradicting its own research by saying that the tissue grafted onto rats and mice was obtained from Advanced Bioscience Resources, not UPMC? Will HPM be releasing the documents or interviews their assessment was based on?