New GOP stunt hearing dresses up anti-abortion radicals as pro-child advocates

Republican lawmakers have been trying to dig themselves out of the ditch created when the Alabama Supreme Court ruled last month that frozen embryos created through in vitro fertilization should be considered children. And former President Donald Trump has been trying to throw off the political albatross of near-total abortion bans imposed in red states post-Dobbs v. Jackson as he campaigns for a White House get-out-of-jail-free card.

But now Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has come along with a shovel to dig that ditch a little deeper. Greene was creepily enough all smiles when she announced on X, formerly known as Twitter, that she would be conducting a hearing next Tuesday to investigate “the Black Market of Baby Organ Harvesting.” She also invited people to register on her congressional website for a livestream of the hearing.

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Join me and special guests David Daleiden and Terrisa Bukovinac for a Hearing on Investigating the Black Market of Baby Organ Harvesting on Tuesday, March 19th at 2 PM ET. REGISTER NOW:

— Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene🇺🇸 (@RepMTG) March 11, 2024

To be clear, there is no black market of baby organ harvesting. And there’s nothing to smile about regarding Greene’s latest political theater stunt.

Vice President Kamala Harris made history on Thursday when she became the first sitting president or vice president to visit a facility that provides abortions—a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Paul, Minnesota. Greene is trying to revive a malicious, debunked smear campaign against Planned Parenthood. Forced-birthers have falsely claimed that the health care provider has been profiting off of the illegal sale of aborted fetus parts to medical researchers.

Democrats on the House Oversight Committee created a special web page and YouTube videos to debunk misinformation about Planned Parenthood, such as the claim that its clinics conduct late-term abortions to get body parts to sell. They do not.

Only a few Planned Parenthood clinics have donated fetal tissue for medical research, with the informed consent of the patient, the organization said. Clinics in the past did receive compensation from researchers to cover their costs for processing and transporting the material, but the policy was changed in 2015, and clinics no longer accept reimbursement for expenses related to tissue donation.

But the biggest tell about what Greene is up to are the two witnesses she has announced that will appear at her hearing: prominent anti-abortion activists David Daleiden and Terrisa Bukovinac.

Daleiden, who founded a group known as the Center for Medical Progress, was linked by the Southern Poverty Law Center to ”some of the country’s hardest-line anti-abortion extremists.”

In 2015, Daleiden’s group released a series of deceptively edited undercover videos that claimed to show Planned Parenthood employees involved in the for-profit sale of supposed “body parts from aborted fetuses,” which would have been illegal. That led to efforts in several Republican-controlled states to defund Planned Parenthood health centers.

At least 13 states conducted investigations of Planned Parenthood that found that the organization had not engaged in any wrongdoing. A similar investigation by the House Oversight Committee, pushed by Republican House Speaker John Boehner, reached the same conclusion.

Planned Parenthood, in turn, sued Daleiden’s group. In 2019, a jury ruled in Planned Parenthood’s favor, finding that Daleiden and his group had violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and engaged in fraud, trespass, breach of contract, and illegal secret recording.

The jury awarded Planned Parenthood compensatory and punitive damages totaling more than $2 million for the harm caused by Daleiden and his co-conspirators. In October 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Daleiden group’s appeal of a lower court’s decision upholding most of the damages awarded to Planned Parenthood, Reuters reported.

Bukovinac gained notoriety in March 2022 during a protest outside the Washington Surgi-Clinic in D.C. when she and another anti-abortion activist, Lauren Handy, claim to have obtained a box containing five fetuses and 110 smaller ones from a medical waste truck driver. The clinic is not affiliated with Planned Parenthood.

Police later said the fetuses were aborted in accordance with D.C. law. In 2022, police removed the fetuses from a refrigerator in Handy’s home after she and several other protesters were indicted on federal charges of blocking access to the Surgi-Clinic during an earlier 2020 protest. In August 2023, Handy and four co-defendants were convicted of illegally blockading the reproductive health clinic. Bukovinac was not among those charged.

Bukovinac founded a group known as Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising, which demanded that the D.C. clinic be investigated for infanticide. In September 2023, Bukovinac, who identifies herself as a “pro-life progressive,” stood outside the Surgi-Clinic to announce that she was running for president in the Democratic primary (though she’s gotten virtually no traction)—a move that she hoped would enable her to run graphic anti-abortion ads, Michigan Advance reported.

Daleiden and Bukovinac have already telegraphed on X what Greene’s hearing will be about. Right-wing media outlets like The Federalist have picked up a report earlier this month from Daleiden’s group. This time, Daleiden’s group didn’t use undercover videos, but apparently cherry-picked documents obtained via a public records request. Daleiden’s group claimed that Planned Parenthood of San Diego (now known as Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest) had a contractual agreement “to supply aborted fetal body parts” to the University of California San Diego in exchange for “valuable consideration”—namely a share of intellectual property rights derived through their research. 

“This new evidence shows Planned Parenthood sells late-term aborted baby body parts in violation of federal law, for far more money than has ever been discussed before,” Daleiden claims in the report.

But once you get past the sensational headlines, the report says the biological materials being referred to are actually “fetal and placental tissue.” Daleidin’s group also claims that the University of California’s total patent invention revenue for 2021-2022 was over $127 million, but the link is to a page referring to the entire U of C system, with no amount specified for patents derived from fetal tissue research at UCSD.

The website for Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest does not include any reference to the Daleidin group’s allegations. But there is something even more alarming about this hearing: the Alabama Supreme Court's ruling on frozen embryos, and efforts by the GOP to pass legislation that declares human life begins at conception.

And that is the impact on fetal tissue and embryonic stem cell research following the Supreme Court’s June 2022 ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, which had guaranteed abortion rights nationwide.

Immediately after the ruling, medical researchers were already expressing worries that the ruling would result in new restrictions that “will decrease the availability of fetal tissues and embryonic stem cells,” or lead some states to pass laws banning such research entirely, according to The Scientist website.

In 2021, the Biden administration scrapped restrictions imposed by former President Donald Trump on federal funding for medical research using human fetal tissue from elective abortions. If Trump wins in November, even harsher restrictions could be imposed.

The Guttmacher Institute, an abortion-rights advocacy research group, wrote that these federal grants support research “on a wide range of conditions including diabetes, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, spinal cord injuries, hemophilia, leukemia, sickle cell anemia, ALS, and others.”

Back in 2016, when Daleidin’s group first went after Planned Parenthood, the Guttmacher Institute wrote in its report:

Fetal tissue research dates back to the 1930s, and has led to major advances in human health, including the virtual elimination of such childhood scourges as polio, measles and rubella in the United States. Today, fetal tissue is being used in the development of vaccines against Ebola and HIV, the study of human development, and efforts to treat and cure conditions and diseases that afflict millions of Americans.

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