Congressional panel urges Obama administration to investigate Planned Parenthood and StemExpress

The Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, chaired by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, revealed that it has discovered Planned Parenthood and and its fetal procurement partner, StemExpress, may have violated federal laws related to informed consent and patient privacy. The Panel has asked for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to launch an investigation.

In a letter to HHS, Blackburn writes of the potential violations of patient privacy, which include granting StemExpress’ fetal parts procurement workers access to confidential patient files when abortions were scheduled.

This allowed StemExpress to send a procurement agent to gather the fetal parts, but in doing so, gave the company unauthorized access to patient files, as well as to the patient, who would not have known her privacy was violated.

The excerpt of Blackburn’s letter reads:

These contracts produced a regime of cooperation between StemExpress and each clinic. In particular: (1) the day before scheduled abortions, StemExpress received a fax from a clinic with information about the abortions scheduled for the next day; (2) StemExpress employees were granted access to the medical files of individual patients; (3) The clinic’s medical employees (doctors and nurses) directed the StemExpress employees to particular patients who were “good candidates” for fetal tissue donations; (4) the StemExpress employees had access to the “patient terminal” inside the abortion clinic; and (5) the StemExpress employees were permitted by the abortion clinic to interview the patients about personal information, including their dates of birth.

Blackburn writes that these large Planned Parenthood affiliates potentially “committed systematic violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (‘HIPAA’)”:

These violations occurred when the abortion clinics disclosed patients’ individually identifiable health information to StemExpress’ to facilitate TPB’s [Tissue Procurement Business] efforts to procure human fetal tissue for resale.

The letter also refers the investigation to the HHS Office for Human Research Protections to investigate whether StemExpress used invalid consent forms and failed to have a valid Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval.


One issue outlined by the Panel is “the contracts’ admission that StemExpress reviewed protected health information (PHI) prior to obtaining patient’s consent to donate fetal tissue or patients’ authorization to view their PHI.” The letter adds:

The disclosures of patients’ PHI made by the abortion clinics, and received by StemExpress, were neither required nor permitted under HIPAA, and in particular did not meet the expectation for cadaveric organ, eye or tissue transplantation or for research…. Rather, StemExpress wanted patients’ PHI to facilitate the procurement of human tissue from aborted infants for resale to researchers.

Ultimately, the investigation by the Select Panel reveals potential violations of patient privacy, as well as questions of patient coercion (since fetal procurement technicians were planning to acquire baby parts before abortions had taken place and women had signed consent forms). The Panel questions whether this would show “coercion or undue influence.”

The Center for Medical Progress released the following statement, condemning the alleged “scheme to profit off aborted baby body parts” between Planned Parenthood and StemExpress.

StemExpress paid Planned Parenthood to break the law. 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 now act immediately to hold lawless entities like StemExpress and Planned Parenthood accountable for their atrocities against humanity.

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