The XX Factor

The House’s Pointless Fetal Tissue Witch Hunt Is Determined to Seem Relevant

Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, says the bogus panel will continue to do things.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

The congressional committee established to investigate an imagined black market for fetal tissue recommended Thursday that attorneys general pursue criminal charges against a Texas Planned Parenthood, along with several other health care providers and research institutions.

The elegantly named Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives has referred Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast to the Texas attorney general’s office, alleging that the health center profited from donations of fetal tissue it sent to the University of Texas for research using embryonic stem cells. The panel named several other institutions in its referrals to the offices of state attorneys general, including medical research company StemExpress and abortion clinics in Arkansas and Ohio. Rewire reported in June that the committee has also recommended that New Mexico launch a state-level criminal investigation into the way the University of New Mexico and Southwestern Women’s Options, an abortion provider, deal with fetal tissue.

Planned Parenthood, it has been proved time and time again, does not profit from the fetal tissue donations it makes. The vast majority of Planned Parenthood clinics have never even sent fetal tissue to medical research institutions. But the harassment and violence the organization weathered due to the fevered imaginings of this congressional panel caused Planned Parenthood to stop accepting all (perfectly legal!) reimbursement for its tissue donations in October 2015.

Thursday’s announcement, then, is a desperate grasp for relevance from a committee that has been conducting an expensive witch hunt against Planned Parenthood and abortion care for more than a year. The panel has not uncovered any evidence that any abortion providers are selling the remains of aborted fetuses, as the Center for Medical Progress’ discredited “sting videos” claimed. Thirteen states and some local jurisdictions jumped on the GOP bandwagon and launched their own investigations, all of which yielded exactly zero instances of illegal or unethical practices.

Actually, that’s not quite true. The Houston grand jury convened to consider claims that Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast trafficked in fetal tissue did end up indicting someone: anti-abortion activist David Daleiden, who orchestrated the thoroughly made-up “baby parts” scandal that caused pro-lifers across the country to hyperventilate last summer. The grand jury charged that Daleiden and his cohort had tampered with government records (a felony) and that he had tried to engage in the purchase or sale of fetal tissue. (That last charge was later dropped, but the poetic justice lingers.) Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, the same center the congressional panel attacked on Thursday, was cleared of all allegations of wrongdoing.

Even though the only indictments that have resulted from these drawn-out, aimless investigations have been against their own side, the members of the congressional panel are determined to continue. On Thursday, the House more than doubled the committee’s budget for the year, bringing it to nearly $1.6 million, in a vote along party lines. Republican Rep. Mia Love of Utah said the committee’s referrals of abortion providers to state attorneys general are “proof of potential criminal activity in the fetal tissue industry,” promising “more referrals are to come.”