Congressional Panel Recommends the House Hold StemExpress in Contempt

By Dustin Siggins Published on September 22, 2016

Former Planned Parenthood fetal harvesting partner StemExpress should be held in contempt of Congress, according to Republicans on a panel investigating the fetal harvesting industry.

The House Select Panel on Infant Lives’ vote was based upon a report Republicans say outlines cause to hold StemExpress and its CEO Cate Dyer in contempt for not responding to the Panel’s subpoenas and other requests and demands for information, including accounting records. The recommendation for contempt was successful, 8-0, after the Panel’s six Democrats staged a walk-out.

“Nearly one year ago our Panel was established and given the important task of investigating very disturbing allegations that some abortion clinics and middleman procurement organizations, including StemExpresss, were violating federal law by profiting from the sale of human fetal tissue,” said Panel Chair Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) in a statement after the vote. “In order to determine if these entities were in violation of federal law or if the relevant statute needs to be updated, our Panel must review all accounting and banking records.”

The Panel issued requests, then subpoenas, to StemExpress, starting in December 2015. Subpoenas were issued starting in early 2016, according to a timeline provided to the press by the Panel. A final attempt to contact StemExpress’ lawyer was made in early September.

“Nine months is enough time for an entity to produce accounting documents,” said Blackburn. “A subpoena is not a suggestion. It is a lawful order that must be complied with. If StemExpress continues to obstruct, then we will work with House leadership to determine the necessary next steps.”

For its part, StemExpress said in a statement that it has complied with the Panel’s investigation. “StemExpress offered to testify before the Select Panel, but this offer was ignored. Several House and Senate Committees have reviewed our accounting records and closed their investigations. We have provided hundreds of documents to the Select Panel, including accounting records, both voluntarily and in response to subpoenas.”

A spokesperson for StemExpress did not answer The Stream’s follow-up question about whether the company had explicitly provided the accounting information demanded by the Panel. The harvesting company’s former bank, Five Star Bancorp, likewise did not respond to a request for comment.

Press staff for the House Panel did not answer The Stream’s follow-up question about StemExpress’ claim about testifying before the Panel.

StemExpress has been in Republicans’ sights since the Center for Medical Progress’ undercover videos showed the company possibly engaging in illegal harvesting of fetal organs and other body parts. While Planned Parenthood and StemExpress parted ways shortly after the videos were made public, the Panel’s investigations show that StemExpress was providing Planned Parenthood clinics with profit in exchange for fetal parts.

It is the profit that concerns the Panel, since it violates a 1993 federal law authored by former Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman of Massachusetts. However, StemExpress said it could not cooperate with the Panel, claiming it was “gravely concerned about the safety and security risks of identifying StemExpress personnel involved in the procurement of fetal tissue.”

Blackburn and Panel staff say StemExpress’ concerns are unnecessary. “The Panel staff and the Chairman have represented publicly and to StemExpress counsel that the Panel’s policy was to keep the names of lower-level staff and researchers redacted from any public documents or reports. Indeed, the directions to such subpoena recipients provide a methodology to protect the identities of persons in functional positions.”

All of the Panel’s Democrats walked out before yesterday’s vote. In a press release, top Panel Democrat Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) said, “Chair Blackburn has manufactured a controversy over information that she does not need,” accusing Blackburn of making a “McCarthyesque threat. …”

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