House Fetal Tissue Panel Evidence Shows StemExpress and Abortion Clinic Contractors Violated Federal Privacy Laws

In this photo taken Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015, Cate Dyer, chief executive officer and founder of StemExpress, poses at the company's office in Placerville, Calif.
AP photo

The chairman of the House’s special panel investigating fetal tissue practices wants the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to investigate the panel’s findings that StemExpress and the abortion clinics it contracts with have violated federal privacy and informed consent laws in order to profit from the sale of the body parts of aborted babies.

In a letter to Jocelyn Samuels, director of Centralized Case Management Operations at HHS, Select Investigative Panel Chairman Marsha Blackburn urged the department to investigate evidence that shows StemExpress and its contracted abortion clinics violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). The HIPAA rule is intended to protect the privacy of patient’s medical information.

Additionally, the panel’s investigation finds that StemExpress violated federal regulations that govern Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) by covering up its use of invalid consent forms, activity which allegedly misled scientific researchers to believe they had valid IRB approvals. Blackburn asked Jerry Menikoff, director of the HHS Office for Human Research Protections, to conduct an investigation into its findings and to take all necessary actions.

Blackburn wrote to Menikoff:

Documents produced to the Panel prove that StemExpress’ tissue procurement technicians knew in advance of the abortion schedules, the clinics assisted them with obtaining consent, and the entire work flow was designed to maximize the firm’s profits…Additional documents produced by StemExpress demonstrate that tissue procurement technicians engaged in real-time email correspondence with researchers while abortions were taking place – presumably before they obtained informed consent to procure fetal tissue – and yet StemExpress employees already were promising to deliver products of conception.

“The key to understanding the HIPAA and consent violations that we’ve referred to HHS is that there’s a business contract between StemExpress and the abortion clinics under which both sides make a profit from the baby body parts inside the young woman’s womb,” Blackburn said in a statement. “The contract changes the way both entities view the young woman: her baby is now a profit-center. This betrayal of a young woman’s trust should disgust us all. It takes financial advantage, obtains consent through coercion, and deceives the woman, all in violation of federal privacy laws.”

The select panel’s investigation comes in the wake of a series of videos by undercover journalists at the Center for Medical Progress (CMP). The videos exposed Planned Parenthood’s apparent practices of selling the body parts of babies aborted in its clinics and altering the position of babies during abortion in order to harvest the most intact organs.

CMP project lead David Daleiden reacted to the panel’s call upon HHS to investigate its evidence with the statement, “StemExpress paid Planned Parenthood to break the law.”

Daleiden continued:

The documents released today by the Select Investigative Panel show StemExpress and the biggest Planned Parenthood affiliate in the country engaged in a five-year-long scheme to profit off aborted baby body parts using unprotected confidential patient information and disregarding normal patient protections, in direct violation of HIPAA and other federal laws. Now we know why Planned Parenthood and their allies have fought so hard to oppose any scrutiny of their barbaric aborted baby body parts business: the violations in Planned Parenthood and StemExpress’ illegal baby body parts trade goes far deeper than anyone ever realized. CMP’s videos only scratched the surface of the systematic profiteering off the private health information and baby body parts from pregnant women that Planned Parenthood and their business partners like StemExpress relentlessly pursued. Elected officials at all levels must act immediately to hold lawless entities like StemExpress and Planned Parenthood accountable for their atrocities against humanity.Democrats in the House have urged Speaker Paul Ryan to disband the special panel, claiming Republicans on the panel are engaging in a “witch hunt.”

Democrats in the House have urged Speaker Paul Ryan to disband the special panel, claiming Republicans on the panel are engaging in a “witch hunt.”

The six Democrats on the select panel – who have all received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Planned Parenthood – said the panel has shown “reckless disregard” in its “continued, escalating abuses that jeopardize Americans’ safety.”

“The onus is on you to put an end to this witch hunt,” the Democrats wrote to Ryan. “You cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the serious risks presented by the panel and still claim to fulfill your responsibilities as Speaker. We implore you not to stand idly by while tax dollars are spent on a baseless investigation that endangers women, scientists, health providers, and others involved in women’s health care and biomedical research.”


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