U.S. Senators Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss., on Tuesday joined an effort urging Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Inspector General Daniel Levinson to conduct an investigation of all fetal tissue research supported by the department, particularly as it relates to Planned Parenthood. The letter specifically requests an independent audit of the department’s supervision of third parties and their compliance with the laws governing medical tissue research.
“The disturbing Planned Parenthood videos raise serious questions about the legality of that organization’s practices and overall compliance with federal laws governing fetal tissue research,” Cochran said. “The Congress and the American people have valid questions that deserve to be answered with a thorough and independent audit.”
“The American people deserve to know whether HHS is upholding the law and providing rigorous oversight of groups like Planned Parenthood,” Wicker said. “Any possible wrongdoing concerning the procurement of fetal tissue is a serious issue that demands accountability.”
The letter, signed by a group of 35 senators, led by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., reads in part: “Federal laws make it unlawful to knowingly acquire, receive, or accept a donation of human fetal tissue for valuable consideration. … The videos not only raise questions about Planned Parenthood’s compliance with applicable laws and regulations, but also highlight potentially significant problems with HHS’s oversight of practices in this market in general.”
Senator Paul’s letter also references a July 22 letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell seeking an internal review of Planned Parenthood’s compliance with laws and regulations related to fetal tissue and partial-birth abortions. Cochran and Wicker were among a group of 49 Senators who signed the letter to Sec. Burwell. The Department responded to the senators on August 14 but failed to address many of the substantive questions posed by the letter.
Cochran and Wicker also voted on August 3 in favor of legislation to defund Planned Parenthood. That legislation failed to receive the 60 votes necessary for further consideration. Cochran was the chief architect of an appropriations bill recently considered by the Senate to keep the government open while also defunding Planned Parenthood. That legislation, which Wicker supported, also failed to receive the 60 votes necessary to advance in the Senate.