The House Select Investigative Panel created to scrutinize fetal tissue donations from abortion providers will vote today on whether or not to hold StemExpress in contempt of Congress for allegedly failing to provide subpoenaed documentation. The company’s lawyers and the panel’s democratic members deny the accusation, decrying the entire investigation as a McCarthyesque witch hunt.
On Monday, Chairwoman Marsha Blackburn accused StemExpress of withholding tax records and invoices that she claims could reveal an illegal profit was made obtaining fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood. StemExpress has given the committee over 1,700 pages of documentation, complying with the two subpoenas issued by the Panel, and offered to testify in front of the committee on numerous occasions.
In a statement released Tuesday, Ranking Member Jan Schakowsky condemned the threat of contempt against StemExpress, saying, “Chair Blackburn’s apparent goal is to harass, intimidate, and ultimately drive companies away from fetal tissue work in an effort to end this important research. Her abusive actions endanger our ability to understand and seek effective treatments for a broad range of debilitating diseases and conditions, including the Zika virus, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, and diabetes.”
StemExpress is a small biotech company based out of California that came under scrutiny after being featured in the surreptitiously filmed videos released last year by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), the same videos that inspired the creation of the Panel. The videos have proven to be manipulatively edited to make it appear as though Planned Parenthood sold fetal tissue to companies such as StemExpress. StemExpress has denied all accusations and severed ties with Planned Parenthood in August 2015.
Since the release of the video series, several House committees as well as twelve state investigations have found that Planned Parenthood committed no wrong doing. The six democrats on the House’s Investigative Panel have been calling for the disbanding of the Panel since the shooting at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs in late November 2015.
This summer the Select Investigative Panel requested an additional $500,000 to continue its probe, which would bring the total cost of the investigation to over one million dollars by the end of the year.
The fraudulent video series by CMP has led to a dramatic increase in threats and violence against abortion providers. The Feminist Majority Foundation’s Campaign to Expose Anti-Abortion Violence highlights the dangerous tactics used by extremists to shut down health clinics, and the leaders who perpetuate the intimidation and harassment of women and their doctors. Learn more here.