August 25, 2015 — Conservative lawmakers in Tennessee on Monday asked Gov. Bill Haslam (R) to impose several emergency rules regarding the disposal of fetal tissue, including an investigation into Planned Parenthood, following the release of misleading videos about the organization, the Tennessean reports (Wadhwani, Tennessean, 8/24).
The videos, released by the antiabortion-rights group Center for Medical Progress, target Planned Parenthood. They depict Planned Parenthood staff discussing fetal tissue donation. CMP secretly filmed the videos by meeting with Planned Parenthood staff while posing as buyers of fetal tissue.
Planned Parenthood has stated that the videos were heavily edited and that the filmed officials did not conduct any illegal activities. The organization said it does not profit from fetal tissue donations and only receives reimbursement for costs associated with such donations, which is legal. Meanwhile, supporters of Planned Parenthood said the videos are part of a decades-long campaign against the organization (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/24).
Meanwhile, Tennessee law prohibits the sale of fetal tissue. Jeff Teague, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, said the two Planned Parenthood clinics in the state that perform surgical abortions contract with an EPA-licensed facility to dispose of fetal tissue. The clinics do not sell or donate any fetal tissue.
Conservative Lawmakers Target Abortion Clinics, Ask for Additional Regulations
According to the Tennessean, five conservative lawmakers in a letter on Monday asked Haslam to authorize the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to investigate all the abortion clinics in the state.
In addition, the lawmakers asked Haslam to order state Department of Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner to create rules to regulate fetal tissue from the time of abortion through the disposal of the tissue. They also asked that women seeking abortion care be told about legal disposal options for fetal tissue and provide consent on the method of disposal. Further, the lawmakers requested that fetal tissue be made unusable for research; that clinics be required to report all disposal methods to the state health department, including transportation and any compensation; and that the health department establish a hot line to report suspected abuse or fraud in abortion clinics.
The lawmakers added that they soon will propose legislation to give the state attorney general "investigative and prosecutorial authority over this matter."
Teague said the request from lawmakers "seems to be ... a solution in search of a problem." He noted, "We have repeatedly said we do not nor have ever participated in any fetal tissue donation programs." Teague added that an investigation into the clinics would "find there has been nothing done that is illegal ... It's ultimately going to be a huge waste of taxpayer dollars."
Meanwhile, state Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D) said, "All this is is a continued attack on any attempt to provide quality and affordable health care to Tennesseans, particularly women" (Tennessean, 8/24).