The House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives has voted to hold fetal tissue procurement company StemExpress in contempt for failing to provide documents required by a congressional subpoena.
Democratic members of the panel — whose campaigns have all been funded by Planned Parenthood — walked out in protest prior to the vote, after Republicans did not accept their motions to adjourn, reports The Hill. Democrats objected that a subcommittee has no power to vote for contempt, but panel chairman Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R) said the resolution for contempt would be sent to the full Energy and Commerce Committee.
Since the launch of the panel following the Planned Parenthood video exposé alleging the abortion business’s illegal sale of aborted baby body parts, Democrats have referred to the panel as a “witch hunt” against Planned Parenthood and have called upon Speaker Paul Ryan for its dissolution. Democratic panel members also complained that Republicans were presenting an obstacle to medical research.
— Planned Parenthood (@PPact) May 31, 2016
“Today’s markup is an unauthorized, dangerous, and unjustifiable escalation of Chair Blackburn’s partisan attack on healthcare and life-saving research,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL).
Blackburn said, in her opening statement prior to the vote for contempt, that the panel worked to obtain StemExpress’s accounting documents, including the entities with which it dealt in fetal tissue, since December of 2015.
“Nine months is enough time for an entity to produce accounting documents,” Blackburn said. “Title 42 USC Section 289g-2 — makes it a 10-year felony to sell human fetal tissue for a profit. The statute passed as an amendment by Henry Waxman in 1993. Sell human fetal tissue for a profit you break the law.”
“StemExpress refused to produce the names citing safety concerns, despite assurances we would redact names,” the congresswoman continued. “The first subpoena also demanded production of all banking and accounting records relating to fetal tissue. StemExpress produced accounting summaries.”
Blackburn added that the panel issued another subpoena in March to StemExpress CEO Cate Dyer, requiring the names of her fetal tissue company’s finance officials as well as accounts payable and receivable, but Dyer has failed to comply with the subpoena.
“A subpoena is not a suggestion,” she said. “It is a lawful order and must be complied with.”
“What is in the banking and accounting records that is so secretive that they won’t comply with a congressional, lawful subpoena?” Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) asked.
In June, the panel concluded after hearing evidence from many witnesses that StemExpress and the abortion clinics it contracted with had violated federal privacy and informed consent laws in order to profit from the sale of the body parts of aborted babies. Blackburn sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services urging an investigation.
Dyer was featured in the investigative videos produced by the Center for Medical Progress. In a transcript of conversations with the undercover journalists, Dyer laughs that her lab technicians “freak out” when they have to look at the severed heads of aborted babies, and again when she tells the undercover “buyers” over lunch that she has seen “really rampant, rampant problems with bacteria” in certain Planned Parenthood clinics she works with to obtain the body parts of aborted babies.