House panel in fetal tissue probe issues more subpoenas


WASHINGTON (AP) — The special House panel investigating fetal tissue donation by such groups as Planned Parenthood has issued 12 more subpoenas to organizations that the Republican leading the probe says have not fully cooperated with requests for information.

Democrats complained that the panel is investigating unjustified allegations by anti-abortion extremists and — by demanding the identities of some workers — is jeopardizing their safety.

The panel headed by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., said Wednesday that targets of the subpoenas include StemExpress, a company that provides fetal tissue to researchers; Ganogen Inc., a biotechnology firm and the BioMedical Research Institute of America, which helps set standards for the work.

The committee said “individuals with relationships to the University of New Mexico,” which conducts fetal tissue research, were also subpoenaed. Some subpoenas’ targets were hidden in documents the panel provided.

“There should be no resistance to letting all the facts come out,” Blackburn said in a statement justifying her committee’s action. “But some abortion supporters seem to be clearly rattled with basic facts coming to light.”

Most subpoenas were for documents, but some require recipients to give closed-door depositions to investigators. None were identified as going to Planned Parenthood, but some requested information about communications with the organization’s chapters.

One subpoena, whose recipient was redacted, demanded the names of all “current and former” University of New Mexico personnel involved with fetal tissue from Southwestern Women’s Options, a clinic where abortions are performed, plus the identities of “any supervisory personnel.”

Another, issued to Ganogen, sought information on “all fetal tissue or fetal body parts that Ganogen received, purchased or procured.”

The panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, said some recipients hadn’t previously been asked for information or hadn’t been asked to voluntarily provide it. She reiterated Democrats’ concerns that identifying some organizations’ workers could expose them to physical harm by abortion opponents.

“Chair Blackburn has refused to explain why she needs a database of names,” Schakowsky said. “It is time for this witch hunt to come to an end.”

The panel — called the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives — issued three other subpoenas last month. It has held one public hearing since it was created last fall in the aftermath of the conservative uproar over Planned Parenthood’s provision of fetal tissue to researchers.

An effort by congressional Republicans to kill federal funding for Planned Parenthood was vetoed by President Barack Obama.

Planned Parenthood has said it has done nothing illegal, and investigations so far by several congressional committees and states have uncovered no evidence of crimes.

The House panel plans to issue a report by the end of 2016.