The fetal tissue debate just got a new player: the Inspector General’s office (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Tuesday, U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) announced that the HHS OIG will be conducting a federal investigation and research probe into fetal tissue research sponsored by the HHS National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Senator Paul, and 34 other senators, wrote and signed letter to the HHS Inspector General (IG), Daniel R. Levinson, back in October, in response to undercover videos exposing potentially illegal research of baby fetuses by Planned Parenthood organizations.
The launching of an investigative probe into the federal sponsorship of fetal tissue research will be focused on financing sources from NIH grants and other types of funding.
In the response letter to the Senator Paul and company, IG Levinson agreed to a research and observatory action that will take place. “We will interview HHS and National Institutes of Health (NIH) officials,” per the requests of Senator Paul and the 34 other senators.
Levinson continued, saying that “This approach will also focus on gathering relevant documentation related to policies and procedures for monitoring fetal tissue research activities.”
Senator Paul and congressional Republicans are touting this probe as a victory in the GOP fight to defund Planned Parenthood operations. In a press release, the Senator and Republican presidential candidate called the probe an appropriate “action to investigate Planned Parenthood’s unconscionable practices.”
The debate surrounding fetal tissue research was sparked when an undercover journalism group released videos of Planned Parenthood staffers who were allegedly selling human fetuses for research purposes, an illegal practice. Many presidential candidates, including Carly Fiorina, fashioned a political platform around the videos.
Opponents dubbed the videos an effort by the GOP to mount a war on women’s reproductive rights and the right to choose.
“Planned Parenthood selling body parts of the unborn demonstrates that the organization deserves not one penny more of our taxpayer dollars, and I am confident this investigation will give further proof of that,” Senator Paul was quoted in the press release.
Planned Parenthood officials, and the members in the Obama Administration, have agreed to the probe as well. In a statement to The Washington Post, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards proclaimed that the investigation will be an excellent opportunity to highlight the practices of the medical communities in research fetal tissue. “A new review by a blue ribbon panel (OIG) could help ensure the entire medical community is meeting the highest possible standards for this practice,” Richards states.
The remainder of Richards’s statement ensures that Planned Parenthood and other providers are conducting research ethically.
The HHS Inspector General is an independent agency, within the Department, that conducts research and audits to ensure federal ethical standards are being met. HHS OIG, like several of the other 80 agencies like it, also maintains a criminal investigation section. With full fledged Federal law enforcement officers, HHS investigates allegations of fraudulence, misconduct, and misuse of federal resources which includes federal financial resources like grants for research.