This week U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton called for a full audit of all fetal tissue research supported by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to determine whether there have been violations of the law and how the agency verifies compliance following the release of videos indicating Planned Parenthood’s involvement in the harvesting and sale of the organs of aborted babies.
The Arkansas senators joined more than 30 of their colleagues in signing a letter written by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) to HHS Inspector General Daniel R. Levinson urging an audit of third party practices.
The letter reads in part:
Dear Inspector General Levinson:
We request that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) conduct an audit of all fetal tissue research supported by HHS, specifically examining the Department’s oversight of contractor and grantee compliance with the laws governing fetal tissue research.
Research involving human fetal tissue is primarily regulated by the NIH Revitalization Act of 1993 (NIH Act), the Health Research Extension Act, and the National Organ Transplant Act, 42 USC Sec. 289g-2. Federal laws make it unlawful to knowingly acquire, receive, or accept a donation of human fetal tissue for valuable consideration.
The Planned Parenthood videos recently released by the Center for Medical Progress raise serious concerns about potential violations of federal law prohibiting the transfer of fetal tissue for valuable consideration. The videos not only raise questions about Planned Parenthood’s compliance with applicable laws and regulations, but also highlight potentially significant problems with HHS’s oversight of practices in this market in general.
Our request to you follows receipt of an unacceptable response from the Department on August 14, 2015, which failed to address many of the substantive questions raised in the July 22, 2015 inquiry to HHS (both letters attached). The Department does not appear to have conducted any internal investigation of their own research practices or any audits or other oversight of their contractors, suppliers, and grantees with regard to their compliance with fetal tissue research laws and instead relied on assertions of compliance.
“The videos not only raise questions about Planned Parenthood’s compliance with applicable laws and regulations, but also highlight potentially significant problems with HHS’s oversight of practices in this market in general,” lawmakers wrote.
This summer, Sens. Boozman and Cotton called on U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to conduct an investigation into whether Planned Parenthood violated federal law and urged HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell to cooperate with investigations into Planned Parenthood’s practices.
Including Boozman and Cotton, the following signed onto Paul’s letter: Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Richard Burr (R-NC), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Dan Coats (R-IN), Mike Thad Cochran (R-MS), Mike Crapo (R-ID), John Cornyn (R-TX), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Steve Daines (R-MT), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Ron Johnson (R-WI), James Lankford (R-OK), Mike Lee (R-UT), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Jerry Moran (R-KS), David Perdue (R-GA), Rob Portman (R-OH), James Risch (R-ID), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Tim Scott (R-SC), John Thune (R-SD), David Vitter (R-LA) and Roger Wicker (R-MS).