Republicans on a special House panel investigating the sale and transfer of body parts and other tissue from aborted babies are accusing Democrats of stonewalling efforts to present Congress with an accurate picture.

Democrats, they say, are encouraging abortion clinics and for-profit companies not to comply with congressional subpoenas and other requests for documents, making it difficult to complete their investigation.

“The minority privately attempted to obstruct the panel’s fact-finding mission,” Chairman Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., said of her Democrat counterparts during a press conference Thursday on a 94-page interim update on the panel’s progress.

Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., a panel member, said the abortion industry “has been less than cooperative, and I think we have to ask ourselves why,” adding:

If they’re proud of this industry, if there’s nothing to hide, if they think this is moral and meets the laws of America, open up. Give us the documents we asked for.

The Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives was established last October following a series of undercover videos created by the pro-life Center for Medical Progress. Those hidden-camera videos, released last summer, depicted officials at Planned Parenthood affiliates discussing the amounts they could charge in selling organs and other body parts from aborted babies.
Profiting from the sale of fetal tissue is against federal law.

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America has denied those allegations, and state investigations so far have cleared the nation’s largest abortion provider of any wrongdoing.

But since then, the abortion industry has faced a new wave of allegations surrounding the fetal tissue market, which, according to federal law, is supposed to operate on a nonprofit, donation-based model.

On Thursday, Blackburn and other Republicans leading the House select panel issued the scathing interim report raising legal and ethical questions about the abortion industry. The report suggests that, motivated by a need for revenue, abortion clinics and middleman procurement companies engaged in regulatory shortcuts that violate federal law and regulations.

Middleman procurement companies are businesses that work with abortion clinics to obtain body parts and other tissue from aborted babies and provide them to universities, institutions, or other organizations for research.

Blackburn said:

We have uncovered evidence that some abortion providers have altered abortion procedures in a manner that substitutes what is best for the patient with a financial benefit for both the abortion clinic and the procurement organization. The motive for profit sullies the integrity of our nation’s celebrated history of voluntary organ donation.

Federal law prohibits doctors from altering the abortion procedure to obtain tissue. Federal law also prohibits profiting from the sale of fetal tissue.

However, it is legal to provide payment and accept payment to cover reasonable costs for “transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue.”

The select panel’s ranking member, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., called the GOP members’ allegations in the report false, and said the panel should be disbanded.

“Never before have I witnessed such a disconnect between allegations and the facts,” Schakowsky said in a prepared statement. “Their interim report, which Democrats learned about through a press advisory, proves that this panel needs to be disbanded now, before more lives are put at risk.”

By requesting the names of specific doctors, researchers, and clinic employees, Schakowsky and other Democrats say, Republicans are endangering their lives. They point to the attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs.

In May, Democrats issued their own update on the panel’s progress, calling Republican allegations of noncompliance “false.” They wrote:

Despite the chair’s false public claims of widespread noncompliance, thousands of pages of documents have been submitted to the panel by universities, clinics, and companies. These materials indicate that costs related to fetal tissue donation remain consistent with the Government Accountability Office’s reporting from 16 years ago and provide no evidence of the unlawful sale of fetal tissue.

The select panel includes eight Republicans and six Democrats.

The initial goal of the panel’s investigation was to figure out whether abortion clinics and other companies profit from the sale of fetal tissue. In the course of obtaining documents, Republicans say, they learned that abortion clinics and middleman companies also may have violated other laws and regulations that apply to the abortion industry.

To provide Congress with a complete picture, panel investigators say Democrats must stop encouraging abortion clinics and middleman procurement companies to refuse to turn over accounting and banking records critical to the investigation.

“At every turn, the minority has urged that the panel’s requests for information be ignored and even urged noncompliance with congressional subpoenas,” Page 5 of the interim report reads. The report continues:

At the behest of the minority, many individuals who have received congressional subpoenas have heavily redacted critical information, and some have refused to comply at all. Still others have communicated in writing that they have relied upon minority memoranda to support their noncompliance. Information is a critical tool for congressional deliberation, so in the coming months, the panel will undertake initiatives to gain compliance with its subpoenas.

“Democrats did not give anyone a memorandum urging noncompliance and we told this to Republicans when they asked,” a spokeswoman for panel Democrats told The Daily Signal in response to these allegations, adding:

Democratic staff prepared a memo for our members on the status of the investigation which made clear that we have uncovered no evidence of wrongdoing and highlighted the Republicans’ partisan abuses. That memo is available on our website. Republicans must be really struggling if they have to resort to peddling falsehoods about Democrats and a simple status memo can put the brakes on their investigation. Just like the many allegations Republicans have made throughout this so-called investigation, this one has no basis in fact.

In their report, Republicans detail specific examples where they say middleman companies and other entities refused to cooperate with Congress’ investigation.

On Feb. 12, the panel issued a subpoena to StemExpress demanding the production of all banking and accounting records relating to fetal tissue, among other documents. According to the panel’s report, StemExpress produced only accounting summaries created by its lawyers.

On March 29, the panel issued a second subpoena to StemExpress and its founder, Cate Dyer, again requesting the same transaction information, as well as information on the company’s financial director.

“Without enforcing the subpoenas to StemExpress and Ms. Dyer, the panel will be unable to determine whether StemExpress complied with or violated [federal law],” the report states.

The Daily Signal emailed StemExpress, but the company would not comment on the record.

The panel documented what it calls similar instances of noncompliance involving Southwestern Women’s Options (an abortion clinic located in Albuquerque, New Mexico), the University of New Mexico (a research institute), and Advanced Bioscience Resources (a middleman procurement nonprofit).

An attorney for Advanced Bioscience Resources told investigators the organization does not have detailed records of its fees and expenses.

Instead, investigators said, Advanced Bioscience Resources gave the panel a “single sheet of financial information, and a one-page document, apparently generated using a calculator.”

“It is unclear how these documents were created or by whom,” the report states.

The Daily Signal contacted Advanced Bioscience Resources, Southwestern Women’s Options, and the University of New Mexico for comment, but those entities have not yet responded.

Without obtaining these accounting documents, Republicans say, they’ll be unable to meet their Dec. 31 deadline to complete the investigation.

“Information is a critical tool for congressional deliberation, so in the coming months, the panel will undertake initiatives to gain compliance with its subpoenas,” Blackburn and her fellow Republicans warn in the interim report.

Democrats maintain that if these companies and organizations are forced to hand over the information demanded, lives could be at risk.

“Republicans have offered no legitimate reason for continuing this investigation, which is putting lives, life-saving research, health care at risk, and wasting taxpayer dollars,” the panel’s Democrats wrote in their May report.