'Aborted Baby Body Parts Industry' to be Investigated
Washington, DC (CNSNews.com) - Members of a House Subcommittee on Health and the Environment on Thursday called on the Justice Department to conduct an investigation into the illegal trafficking of aborted baby body parts and tissue for profit.
Representative Fred Upton (R-MI) during the hearing cited a broadcast on Wednesday night ABC's 20-20 program that showed allegations saying that Opening Lines, Inc., a company that provides aborted baby tissue to researchers, was illegally profiting from the sale by charging researchers a fee that includes more than the company's cost of providing the tissue.
Documentation supporting these claims includes photocopies of fee schedules for aborted baby body parts and tissue issued by Opening Lines and other companies. One lists a human brain under eight weeks gestation at $999. An "intact trunck [sic] with/without limbs" goes for $500. Eyes and ears range from $50 to $100.
Upton cited as evidence against the company a section of the Federal Public Health Service Act that he says states that "valuable consideration does not include reasonable payment associated with the transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control or storage of human fetal tissue."
Upton believes the Justice Department and the FBI should look into the matter by conducting a full-scale investigation of Opening Lines, Inc. as well as its principals and its current and former employees to determine if the Federal Public Health Service Act is being violated.
Before Thursday's hearing began, Upton had sent a letter to the Justice Department requesting such an investigation. He spoke with Deputy Attorney General Robert Raben on Thursday morning and received from him a written response as well.
Raben responded by saying, " It appears that the Justice Department has not received any information meeting our standards for triggering a formal investigation that fetal tissue has been sold for profit. We are still reviewing our records for information."
Raben also said the Justice Department had been informed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that they, too, had not received any such information.
The Justice Department is also currently reviewing, according to Raben, the information on the ABC broadcast to determine whether specific allegations raised by that broadcast warrant beginning a Justice Department investigation or an investigation by another federal agency.
The purpose of the subcommittee hearing on Thursday was not to propose legislation but to determine, through witness testimony, whether the Federal Public Health Service Act, passed by Congress in 1993, has been enforced adequately.
Subcommittee chairman Michael Bilarakis (R-FL) said full and vigorous enforcement of the law against the sale of fetal tissue is essential to prevent a negative impact on legitimate research.
Many subcommittee Democrats had attempted to prevent the hearing from being open to the public fearing that abortion clinics and their employees would be exposed. However, Bilarakis said he was erring on the side of caution and instructed the witnesses not to reveal where they worked and the location of their work.
The witnesses told the subcommittee members of their personal experiences in the aborted baby body parts and tissue industry, and all the witnesses called on Congress to take action.
The aborted baby body parts and tissue matter came before the subcommittee last November. One committee spokesman, who did not want to be named, told CNSNews.com, "Congress has been diligent in tackling this issue, but the Clinton Administration has not."
The same subcommittee spokesman said, "This should not be viewed as a pro-life versus pro-choice issue but whether federal law was being enforced."
House Commerce Committee chairman Tom Bliley (R-VA) said there has been no federal oversight as to whether the Federal Public Health Service Act was being enforced. Bliley told the subcommittee, "Today, this government neglect ends."
Another subcommittee member, Congressman Bert Stupak (D-MI) called on both Attorney General Janet Reno and FBI Director Louis Freeh to investigate if federal laws were violated.
Another subcommittee member thought the FBI itself should be called before the subcommittee at a future hearing on the matter.