Uncovering Planned Parenthood’s public records on baby body parts

For decades, University of Washington has operated the federally-sponsored Birth Defects Research Lab (BDRL)— a taxpayer-funded fetal organ and tissue procurement service.

The BDRL operates similarly to companies like StemExpress, Advanced Bioscience Resources, and Da Vinci Biologics: as a middleman go-between for abortion clinics and end-users of aborted baby parts.

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The biggest difference is that BDRL is an entirely publicly owned and operated entity, run by a public university, using multiple streams of taxpayer money, and is subject to state and federal open records laws.

The BDRL is an important case study to understand the fetal trafficking phenomenon because it is a taxpayer-funded entity, receiving over half a million dollars in NIH grants every year.

As a decades-old NIH-funded entity, BDRL should be the industry expert in the federal laws and regulations governing the harvesting and transfer of aborted fetal organs and tissue.

BDRL’s practices for fetal body parts procurement are a critical benchmark to use to compare to the business practices of other private-sector fetal tissue procurement entities and abortion clinic source sites.

That’s probably why the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives has already requested documents from the University of Washington relating to the BDRL. But according to the Panel’s July 14th, 2016 Interim Update, the University of Washington has not complied fully to produce the documents.

One of BDRL’s primary sources of baby body parts is Planned Parenthood Greater Washington & North Idaho (PPGWNI). Planned Parenthood has held out the PPGWNI-BDRL partnership as the gold standard for its baby parts harvesting program, asserting that PPGWNI has never received any payments whatsoever from BDRL in exchange for fetal organs and tissue.

If true, this would be a huge contrast with other Planned Parenthood affiliates and their relationships with private-sector companies like StemExpress and other public universities like the University of Texas Medical Branch.

On October 13, 2015, PPFA president Cecile Richards sent a letter to NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins. She said that all Planned Parenthood affiliates would now copy the allegedly payment-free model at PPGWNI and no longer accept payment in exchange for supplying fetal tissue.

Richards told Collins, “Going forward, all of our health centers will follow the same policy” to receive no payments. Yet Richards did not release the text of any new PPFA policy, and PPFA has released no other documents reflecting the model in place at PPGWNI.

 So on February 9 2016, I sent a public records request under the Washington State Public Records Act to the University of Washington, seeking documents and communications concerning the “the purchase, transfer, or procurement of human fetal tissues, human fetal organs, and/or human fetal cell products.”

These records will demonstrate key details about the operations of the BDRL and its relationship with Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinic source sites.

These details include the amount of money exchanged between BDRL and the abortion clinics. They also have the kinds of costs borne by the clinics, if any, and the amount of reimbursement by BDRL.

Also, any profit or valuable consideration above the clinics, or BDRL’s costs, any alterations made to abortion procedures that may put women at risk in order to obtain more valuable body parts, and any other attempts to skirt the law or avoid scrutiny by the BDRL and the abortion clinics will be included.

Yet, Planned Parenthood and their allies are now seeking to use a frivolous federal lawsuit to shut down the production of these public records in direct contravention of Washington’s public records law.

They have recruited eight anonymous plaintiffs to assert--entirely falsely--that my public records request seeks the personal contact information of UW, Planned Parenthood, and other associated employees. My public records request nowhere seeks any one individual contact information whatsoever.

My public records request seeks specifically the communications of eight public figures who are already widely identified with the BDRL, fetal tissue procurement, and abortion in Washington state.

Dr. Alan Fantel, former director of the BDRL; Dr. Ian Glass, current director of the BDRL; Connie Cantrell, executive director of Cedar River Clinics, one of BDRL’s main suppliers; Karl Eastlund, Andrew Triplett, Dr. Denise Bayuszik, and Erica Garza, the CEO, and Clinical Operations, Medical, and Patient Services Directors of Planned Parenthood GWNI, respectively; and Deborah VanDerhei, the National Director of PPFA’s Consortium of Abortion Providers.

These individuals hold key executive and oversight roles at the publicly-funded and operated BDRL and its abortion clinic partners. Their communications and documents with UW concerning fetal tissue procurement are directly relevant to demonstrating the policies, attitudes, and values that direct the UW-PPGWNI baby parts partnership.

Connie Cantrell is already publicly discussing her involvement in aborted fetal organ procurement in this lawsuit, and Karl Eastlund is currently discussing it with news media.

While there are eight anonymous “Jane Doe” plaintiffs in the lawsuit, mirroring the eight names in my request, it is clear reading their declarations that they are not the same individuals. The lawsuit is a bait-and-switch where the “little fish” are being used as human shields to cover up for the “big fish.”

The BDRL is both independently controversial and a critical benchmark for the rest of the baby parts harvesting industry, and Planned Parenthood has frequently pointed to their relationship with BDRL as a model that absolves them from any guilt. Planned Parenthood should welcome the release of these public records--and yet they and their allies are again storming into court to suppress the evidence.

A free and open society like ours can and must embrace the public’s access to information produced within and about publicly-funded endeavors like the BDRL and its partnership with PPGWNI.

This public interest is only heightened, and never diminished, by the existence of public controversy that deserves a fully informed hearing in the public discourse.

David Daleiden is the founder of Center for Medical Progress and was the project lead on the undercover investigation released last summer exposing Planned Parenthood’s baby body parts trade.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.