There are no current plans for HHS to investigate Planned Parenthood's providing of fetal tissue to researchers, Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said Tuesday. Some, including lawmakers, want Planned Parenthood's funding pulled after leaked videos show providers discussing providing tissue from aborted fetuses to researchers.
Burwell testified in front of the House Education and Workforce Committee that the matter appeared to be legal in nature, and that the U.S. Justice Department would be the appropriate agency to investigate. She added that she has not seen the videos and has only read news reports about them.
HHS is, however, updating its National Institutes of Health grant process for grantees that use fetal tissue in their research. These individuals will now need to attest they are in compliance with relevant federal and state laws, Burwell said.
Burwell's admission comes a week after Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and 10 other Republican senators sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Burwell wondering whether Planned Parenthood violated federal law prohibiting the sale of human fetal tissue for profit. Individuals can donate fetal tissue.
It's unclear how many providers supply tissue, and it's not something most providers want to talk about. No data exists to show how many providers donate tissue.
Planned Parenthood has said it has done nothing illegal or improper, and that it only charges fees for processing and transportation. It receives more than $500 million annually in government aid, including some state funds, for women's healthcare. Federal funds cannot be used for abortions except for pregnancies involving rape, incest or when the mother's life is in danger.
Republican senators have announced their intention to hold a vote on that would halt federal funding of Planned Parenthood prior to the forthcoming August recess.