In a June 10 speech at the Faith & Freedom Coalition conference, the chairman of the Congressional Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), used documents taken from the discredited anti-choice group the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) to attack the fetal tissue donation process. Since its inception in response to deceptively edited CMP videos, the select panel has utilized a number of CMP documents to allege wrongdoing by abortion providers and tissue procurement companies.
House Republicans Form Select Committee To Investigate Fetal Tissue Donation After CMP Releases Videos Targeting Planned Parenthood
House Republicans Create “Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives” Following Release Of Deceptively Edited Videos Targeting Planned Parenthood. In October 2015, House Republicans voted to create a special committee to investigate abortion service providers and fetal tissue donation. The vote followed the release of deceptively edited videos produced by the anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress (CMP), which targeted Planned Parenthood officials and fetal tissue procurement companies.The committee was later named the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives. [Huffington Post, 10/7/15]
CMP Founder Has Been Indicted By A Grand Jury While Planned Parenthood Has Consistently Been Cleared Of Wrongdoing
Anti-Choice CMP Has Released Multiple Deceptive Videos Attacking Planned Parenthood -- All Of Which Have Been Debunked. Since July 2015, CMP has released multiple videos containing undercover footage of discussions with Planned Parenthood personnel and staff members of private, for-profit biomedical procurement companies. CMP has claimed that its videos show that Planned Parenthood was illegally selling fetal tissue and altering abortion procedures in order to profit from the sale of fetal tissue. Scores of media outlets have confirmed that the footage shows no illegal behavior by, or on behalf of, Planned Parenthood, and that the words of Planned Parenthood personnel who were secretly filmed have been “grossly [taken] out of context.” [Media Matters, 8/31/15]
Growing Number Of Planned Parenthood Investigations Have Cleared Organization Of Any Wrongdoing. CMP’s deceptively edited videos have spurred at least 13 states to launch investigations into Planned Parenthood's operations, even though there are “only three states in which Planned Parenthood affiliate clinics can participate in fetal tissue donation programs,” according to Yahoo News. Thirteen states -- Massachusetts, Indiana, South Dakota, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Florida, Kansas, Washington, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, South Carolina -- and the Department of Health and Human Services have all announced that they found no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood or known violations of federal fetal tissue laws. [Media Matters, 8/24/15]
Texas Grand Jury Indicted Two Members Of Anti-Choice Group CMP. In January, a Houston grand jury charged with investigating Planned Parenthood following the release of CMP’s deceptive videos purporting to show misconduct cleared the organization of any wrongdoing. The jury instead indicted CMP founder David Daleiden and his associate Sandra Merritt for tampering with a governmental record in creating fake California driver's licenses. Daleiden was also indicted on a misdemeanor charge related to his offers to Planned Parenthood officials in Texas to purchase human organs. [Media Matters,1/26/16]
Select Panel Chairman Gives Speech At Conservative Conference Pushing Discredited CMP Documents As Evidence
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) Used Material From Anti-Choice Group CMP As Evidence Of “The Selling Of Baby Body Parts For Profit.” At the Faith & Freedom Coalition conference on June 10, select panel Chairman Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) delivered a speech using two items from the anti-choice group CMP as evidence to attack the fetal tissue donation process and to allege wrongdoing. In her speech, Blackburn pointed to “a business brochure” from StemExpress to allege that the tissue procurement company was advertising to clinics “the selling of baby body parts for profit.” Blackburn additionally cited a screenshot of the “website that goes with the brochure,” which she described as a form for “baby parts on demand.” From Blackburn’s speech:
MARSHA BLACKBURN: I want to show you a business brochure that is absolutely bone-chilling. Take a good hard look at this -- this is a StemExpress offer to the abortion clinics to add a profit center to their clinic. We've got the language highlighted there -- and you can see, they add the selling of baby body parts for profit.
Now take a look at the website that goes with the brochure -- this is the place where StemExpress sells the baby body parts. A drop-down box with everything listed -- brain, heart, lung, liver, tongue, scalp. Click on what you want, click on the gestation period you want, click on the date you want it, and then proceed to checkout to pick your form of shipping. It really is baby parts on demand.
This is big abortion today -- long gone is the lie of legal, safe, and rare. In big abortion, the baby is a profit center, whatever the cost. [Faith Freedom Family Coalition Conference, 6/10/16]
But Both The Brochure And Screenshots Of The Company’s Website Have Been Linked To CMP
1. StemExpress Brochure
Blackburn Has Previously Referenced The “Procurement Company Brochure” As Evidence Of Illicit “Financial Benefit” From Tissue Donation. During the select panel’s second hearing, on April 20, Blackburn referenced a “procurement company brochure” as evidence that clinics gain illicit “financial benefit” from fetal tissue donation. In her opening statement, Blackburn introduced Exhibit B2 as evidence of “what the procurement business was trying to do.” In her description, Blackburn stated that it was “a procurement company brochure” given out at conferences to abortion providers, promising a partnership would be “financially profitable”:
MARSHA BLACKBURN: Next I want to walk the witnesses through the exhibits. I know that all the lawyers in the room like to focus on every detail -- and that is why you are here -- but it is also important to understand the big picture of what the procurement business was trying to do. Especially in light of the Waxman prohibitions against profiting from the sale of baby parts in the ‘93 NIH [National Institutes of Health] Revitalization Act.
Please turn to the B exhibits, beginning with B2. This is the procurement company brochure that is handed out at national conferences where abortion clinic managers were in attendance. Notice it says “financially profitable,” “fiscally rewards,” “financial benefit to your clinic.” [Opening Statement of Chairman Marsha Blackburn for the Select Investigative Panel On Infant Lives, Hearing on The Pricing of Fetal Tissue, 4/20/16]
CMP Described A “Flyer” Used By A Procurement Business As An “Advertisement For Planned Parenthood Clinics To Sell Fetal Tissue.” CMP’s website lists a “Stem Express flyer” as an “advertisement for Planned Parenthood to sell fetal tissue.” CMP claims that the flyer “promises ‘financial profits’ and ‘fiscal growth’ to clinics that partner to supply fetal tissue”:
StemExpress advertises its fetal tissue business to Planned Parenthood clinics using this flyer. It promises “financial profits” and “fiscal growth” to clinics that partner to supply fetal tissue. It features an endorsement from Planned Parenthood Medical Director Dr. Dorothy Ferguson. [Center for Medical Progress, Accessed June 2016]
Comparison Of Panel’s Exhibit B2, Brochure From Blackburn’s Speech, And CMP Documents Reveals That They Are Identical
2. Website Screenshot
Blackburn Has Previously Pointed To A “Website Screengrab” That She Described As Showing “How To Buy Baby Body Parts Online.” During the select panel’s second hearing, Blackburn introduced Exhibit C3 to the panel by describing it as “a website screengrab from the procurement business of how to buy baby body parts online.” Although Blackburn did not call the exhibit by name, an image of Exhibit C3 was displayed on a projection screen as she spoke and described the image:
MARSHA BLACKBURN: The second chart is a website screengrab from the procurement business of how to buy baby body parts online. Now there is a new website and the baby body parts procurement business has been spun off to a new entity. That chart shows the drop-down box for every part imaginable -- heart, eyes, scalp, liver, hands -- then you click on the next box and you pick the gestation period. Then you click and proceed to checkout to select your form of shipping. [Opening Statement of Chairman Marsha Blackburn for the Select Investigative Panel On Infant Lives, Hearing on The Pricing of Fetal Tissue, 4/20/16]
CMP: Video Shows An “Actual Order Form” For Fetal Tissue. In a deceptively edited video from July 2015, CMP showed someone utilizing an “actual order form” for fetal tissue. The form appears to ask, “What type of tissue would you like to order,” and to seek information on the “number of specimens” and gestational age range sought. The viewer can also see a drop-down menu listing different types of tissue available. [Center for Medical Progress, 7/14/15]
Comparison Of Panel’s Exhibit C3, Screenshot From Blackburn’s Speech, And CMP Documents Reveals That They Are Nearly Identical
The Select Panel Republicans Have A History Of Using CMP’s Work To Baselessly Attack Fetal Tissue Donation
In Its First Hearing, The Select Panel Relied On “Evidence” Pulled Directly From CMP. Previous Media Matters research found that Republican members of the select panel presented “evidence” during the panel’s first hearing that was pulled directly from CMP's website and videos. For example, when Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) introduced Exhibit A3, she presented a form that she described as “the consent form that is used in some of these [abortion] clinics.” This same form was listed on CMP's website as a “Planned Parenthood fetal tissue donation form.” In its 14th video, CMP confirmed that its document was the source of Exhibit A3 by transposing the forms on top of one another and removing the redaction bars -- indicating that the two were identical. Of the 12 total exhibits, three could be sourced directly to CMP’s website. [Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, 3/2/16; Media Matters, 3/7/16; 4/7/16]
Second Select Panel Hearing Continued Promoting Discredited CMP Propaganda As “Evidence.” Media Matters’ report on the select panel’s second hearing similarly found that much of the panel’s “evidence” could be linked to CMP. Of the documents presented, 10 could be traced back to CMP’s website or deceptively edited videos. In particular, select panel Republicans relied on evidence sourced from CMP to accuse Planned Parenthood of violating patient privacy, improperly gaining patient consent to donate fetal tissue, and profiting from those donations. [Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, 4/20/16; Media Matters, 4/22/16]
Nine Documents Submitted As “Evidence” In Select Panel’s Letters Are Linked To CMP’s Work. On June 1, Blackburn released two letters to separate entities at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) demanding a federal investigation into “potential violations of federal law by StemExpress and a number of abortion clinics.” The letters include a total of 27 distinct documents submitted as evidence, nine of which have been linked to CMP. [Media Matters, 4/22/16; 3/7/16; 6/6/16]
Select Panel Democrats Have Repeatedly Warned Of Collusion Between Panel Republicans And Anti-Choice Groups
Ranking Member Schakowsky Says She Is “Deeply Concerned” About Panel Republicans’ “Violation Of House Rules” And Failure To “Protect Individual Privacy And Security.” The ranking Democratic member of the select panel, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), released a letter blasting panel Republicans’ failure to follow House rules and protect confidential information. In the June 3 letter, Schakowsky wrote that she was “deeply concerned” about the Republicans’ choice to “provide FOX News advance copies of letters … before sending them to HHS or sharing them” with panel Democrats. Beyond criticizing panel Republicans’ “violation of House rules,” Schakowsky also wrote that their decision to release the letters “without redacting the names and contact information of doctors and researchers” represented a failure to “protect individual privacy and security.” According to Schakowsky, this latest incident has “proven the risk of having this information in the hands of Panel Republicans: there is nothing to stop you from publicly releasing any of the information that you collect.” From Schakowsky’s June 3 letter:
I am deeply concerned by your decision this week to provide FOX News advance copies of letters to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) before sending them to HHS or sharing them with me. In those letters, you again allege wrongdoing by StemExpress based on documents and secret “testimony” that you continue to withhold from Democrats in violation of House rules and without affording the company the opportunity to answer your claims, something it offered to do months ago.
You also released these letters and documents without redacting the names and contact information of doctors and researchers, despite repeatedly claiming that you take individual privacy and safety concerns seriously and would protect names and personal information from public disclosure. Following the Panel’s March 2, 2016 hearing, for example, you had the following exchange with a reporter:
Panel Democrats have repeatedly objected to your sweeping documents requests and abuse of unilateral subpoena power, and have asked for rules that limit the information being collected and protect individual privacy and security. You have ignored our requests. As a result, the Panel now has information – including the names of researchers, doctors, and students, the records of victims of rape, and personal financial information – that Congress has no right or need to know.
You have proven the risk of having this information in the hands of Panel Republicans: there is nothing to stop you from publicly releasing any of the information that you collect. [Letter to Chairman Blackburn, Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, 6/3/16]
Select Panel Democrats Send Letter Calling For “Investigation” Into Republican Members’ “Possible Funneling Of Information To Anti-Abortion Extremists.” Democratic members of the select panel have repeatedly voiced concerns over Republicans’ handling of sensitive information and use of “documents and allegations from anti-abortion extremists” during panel hearings.In a June 7 letter, Schakowsky warned that “Panel Republicans may be funneling information back to [anti-abortion extremists].” Schakowsky pointed to previous security leaks from Republicans as evidence of their lack of concern for individual safety and asked that there be an investigation into “whether such information being provided to the Select Panel Republicans is being disclosed to anti-abortion activists.” [Letter to Chairman Blackburn, Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, 6/7/16]