FIRST ON THE DAILY SIGNAL: Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is calling for a federal investigation into reports that Planned Parenthood is providing aborted baby body parts to the University of California San Diego in exchange for “valuable consideration”—while also maintaining intellectual property rights over the fetal tissue.

“If confirmed, this relationship represents a flagrant violation of federal law, which explicitly prohibits the transfer of fetal tissue for any compensation,” Rubio wrote in a letter Tuesday to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General Christi Grimm, first obtained by The Daily Signal.

“I request that both of you open an investigation into the matter, publish your findings for the American people to see, and hold any guilty parties accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” he wrote.

The senator’s letter explains that the University of California San Diego and Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest entered into a contract in 2009, recently obtained by pro-life activist David Daleiden through a public records request, wherein Planned Parenthood would provide “fetal and placental tissue” to the university “for the purpose of deriving cell lines from and determining gene expression, genomic, and epigenetic profiles of the materials.”

Under that contract, Rubio said, Planned Parenthood retained “all right, title, and interest in and to the [fetal tissue], including … patents and patent applications and other intellectual property rights relating to the [fetal tissue].” And the university had agreed to provide Planned Parenthood with credit as the source of the baby tissue if any publications or studies resulted from its use.

Though federal law forbids acquiring, receiving, or transferring human fetal tissue for “valuable consideration,” the Planned Parenthood and University of California contract was made for “valuable consideration,” Rubio noted. He called the inclusion of the phrase “valuable consideration” in the contract “significant,” given that the language is specifically in federal law.

In the past, Planned Parenthood has publicly acknowledged payments for aborted fetal tissue but said that it was only reimbursed for actual costs. Soon after that acknowledgment in 2015, Planned Parenthood said it would no longer accept even reimbursements.

Pro-life activist David Daleiden (center) stands with attorneys Jared Woodfill (left) and Terry Yates (right), at the Harris County Courthouse after Daleiden surrendered to authorities on Feb. 4, 2016, in Houston, Texas. (Photo: Eric Kayne/Getty Images)

“Furthermore, the relationship between Planned Parenthood and UCSD [University of California San Diego] appears to be much more than a mere contract,” Rubio added. “Not only was Planned Parenthood providing the aborted fetal tissue in exchange for ‘valuable consideration,’ but emails between the groups show that Planned Parenthood and UCSD were actively collaborating and meeting at regular intervals to discuss the progress of the research.”

One of the newly obtained documents shows a $10,000 donation from the university to Planned Parenthood as recently as 2021, the senator said.

The Florida Republican pointed out that the University of Pittsburgh is already under investigation for its “experimentation on aborted babies and its cozy relationship with Planned Parenthood.”

His letter specifically calls on the Department of Justice to uncover how many babies Planned Parenthood gave to the university, what the fetal tissue was used for, how much money the university had given to Planned Parenthood, how much Planned Parenthood has gained monetarily from its control over the intellectual property rights of the fetal tissue, and whether the National Institutes of Health or other agencies have provided funding for that fetal tissue research.

The New York Times reported in 2015 that the NIH had spent “$76 million on research using fetal tissue in 2014 with grants to more than 50 universities.” Those universities included the University of California San Diego, according to the publication.

And the Times acknowledged at the time that companies that were obtaining fetal tissue from abortionists and selling it to laboratories were existing in a “gray zone, legally,” since “federal law says they cannot profit from the tissue itself, but the law does not specify how much they can charge for processing and shipping.”

“I ask that you launch an investigation into University of California San Diego and its use of Planned Parenthood’s aborted fetal tissue in an apparent violation of federal law,” Rubio concluded. “Both of these organizations receive hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars every year, and the American people deserve answers.”

Rubio’s letter comes amid multiple disturbing reports about fetal tissue and the handling of aborted baby bodies. In February, lawmakers raised an outcry over the possibility that the Washington, D.C., medical examiner might dispose of the bodies of five preemie-sized aborted baby bodies from the Washington Surgi-Clinic located in downtown Washington. Those babies are related to the DOJ’s case against pro-life activist Lauren Handy, her attorney argued.

And last week, as The Daily Signal’s Elizabeth Troutman reported, pro-life activist Daleiden released videos purportedly showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing mutilating the bodies of living babies to bypass federal law against partial-birth abortions.

Daleiden told The Daily Signal that the footage, revealed during a House of Representatives hearing led by Republican Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, adds to Planned Parenthood’s record of barbarism toward premature babies. 

Daleiden posed as a fetal tissue procurer to secretly record and publish videos of Planned Parenthood employees in 2013 and 2014 allegedly discussing the sale of fetal body parts. Planned Parenthood has accused Daleiden of deceptively editing the videos. The abortion giant sued Daleiden and his organization, the Center for Medical Progress.

“The new videos show Planned Parenthood’s financial interest in selling the body parts from aborted babies is even bigger than previously discussed, and their criminal intent is irrefutably documented,” Daleiden told The Daily Signal last week. “The new footage also shows the barbaric lengths Planned Parenthood will go to in order to cover up their illegal abortion harvesting.”