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HHS severs fetal-tissue contract, launches audit after uproar from pro-life groups

September 26, 2018

The Health and Human Services Department has undertaken its most aggressive action on fetal-tissue sales to date, terminating a contract with a supplier and launching an audit after an outcry from the pro-life movement.

The department announced late Monday that it would conduct the audit into “all acquisitions involving human fetal tissue” after cancelling a contract with Advanced Bioscience Resources to purchase aborted fetal tissue for research.

“In addition, HHS has initiated a comprehensive review of all research involving fetal tissue to ensure consistency with statutes and regulations governing such research, and to ensure the adequacy of procedures and oversight of this research in light of the serious regulatory, moral, and ethical considerations involved,” said the statement.

The department also said it would continue to explore alternatives to fetal tissue from abortions. Even so, the moves produced as much frustration as elation among pro-life activists.

While they praised the decision to sever the contract, they also wanted to know why the HHS was dealing with ABR to begin with, given that the California-based company is already under federal investigation over whether it profited from tissue sales from abortion.

Center for Medical Progress founder David Daleiden argued that the contract with ABR “never should have been signed in the first place,” while the Susan B. Anthony List said HHS Secretary Alex Azar needs to enact an “immediate moratorium” on funding research that involves “body parts of aborted babies.”

“Pro-life Americans are horrified and outraged by revelations that the pro-life Trump Administration contracted with a notorious baby parts trafficker to purchase ‘fresh’ aborted baby body parts for research, at taxpayer expense,” said SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser. “Unfortunately, HHS’s response does very little to alleviate the outrage.”

She said the National Institutes of Health “funds these grizzly experiments to the tune of nearly $100 million,” and that Congress is set to increase the budget “with no assurance that this administration will stop or even roll back funding for research that involves procuring baby body parts from abortionists like Planned Parenthood.”

“Canceling a single contract and conducting a review is a small step forward, but overall is completely inadequate,” said Ms. Dannefelser.

The one-year contract with ABR in July involved small change, federally speaking $15,900 for “fresh human tissues” from elective abortions but drew an outsize response from pro-life lawmakers and leaders who fired off letters last week to Mr. Azar urging him to cancel the deal.

One reason for the outcry was the pro-life community’s frustration with the Trump administration for failing to do more to take the government out of the fetal-tissue business.

“We have such strong pro-life allies in the administration, so the expectations are much higher,” said SBA List spokeswoman Mallory Quigley. “We want to see an end to all experimentation on fetal tissue and see that funding go instead to ethical alternatives.”

Mr. Daleiden, who drew global attention to Planned Parenthood’s role in fetal-tissue sales with his explosive 2015 undercover videos, called the contract “grotesque.”

“So long as HHS trades taxpayer dollars for freshly-aborted baby body parts, the U.S. government is setting its own abortion quotas and sending the message that these children are worth more dead than alive,” he said.

The company, whose procurement manager was featured in a hidden-camera CMP video, did not return Tuesday a request for comment.

The Senate Judiciary Committee said California-based ABR increased its fee schedule “substantially” without explanation from 2010 to 2015, raising questions about whether the company had overbilled university researchers for fetal tissue obtained from Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest.

The Justice Department confirmed its investigation into ABR and other entities in a December letter to the committee. Companies that deal in aborted fetal tissue may recover costs but are forbidden under federal law from receiving “valuable consideration.”

“Now that HHS has found cause for termination of ABR’s continuing baby body parts sales, DOJ must do its job and follow through on the criminal referrals for ABR, Planned Parenthood, and similar entities with vigorous prosecution,” said Mr. Daleiden.

LiveAction called it a “strong step,” but added that the administration “must now investigate and prosecute Planned Parenthood for fetal parts trafficking.”

Mr. Daleiden concurred.

“Now that HHS has found cause for termination of ABR’s continuing baby body parts sales, DOJ must do its job and follow through on the criminal referrals for ABR, Planned Parenthood, and similar entities with vigorous prosecution,” he said.

In its statement, HHS said it “was not sufficiently assured that the contract included the appropriate protections applicable to fetal tissue research or met all other procurement requirements.”

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