Lawmakers Discuss Prevention Of Fetal Tissue Sales From Abortions

Posted at 6:12 PM, Aug 19, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Some state lawmakers have been wanting to do more to prevent the sale of fetal tissue and body parts from abortions in Tennessee.

There's no proof it has happened here, but Republicans said they'll address the issue in January.

State lawmakers called a special hearing Wednesday on Capitol Hill.

The hearing was the result of controversial national video alleging Planned Parenthood leaders were selling body parts and tissue for profit.

Republican Senator Jeremy Faison opened the meeting.

“Today is not about the right to have an abortion,” Senator Faison said. “Today, is not at all speaking of what's been deemed as a constitutional right."

The hearing on Capitol Hill was about controversial undercover videos made by anti-abortion group.

The videos from the Center for Medical Progress showed Planned Parenthood leaders allegedly talking about selling fetal tissue and organs for profit.

Planned Parenthood denied the practice at any of its clinics across the country. It's illegal.

“The first questions that immediately come to mind are who would do such a thing and is it happening in Tennessee?" Republican Senator Mike Bell said.

A joint House and Senate Committee sought answers to those questions from the Tennessee Department of Health.

"To be clear,” Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner said. “Selling or buying fetal parts associated with an abortion is entirely illegal."

Health officials testified there's no proof it's happening in Tennessee.

Planned Parenthood doesn't even have a fetal tissue donation program in the state.

Despite that evidence after further testimony Republicans came to the conclusion it still could be happening.

"So, if they were selling body parts you wouldn't necessarily know that. Is that right? If they were breaking the law we would not necessarily know that?" Republican Senator Mae Beavers said.

Dreyzehner replied, "That is correct."

Republicans said the result of Wednesday's hearing could be new legislation in January calling for tougher oversite of Planned Parenthood and other groups performing abortions in Tennessee.

"Legislatively we can do things. We can require forms to be filled out, but what we really need is someone who can investigate who can watch for fraud and abuse in the system," Republican Senator Kerry Roberts said.

Democrats called the hearing an affront to the public process, and said there's no indication Planned Parenthood is doing anything illegal in Tennessee.

"They're regulated by the state. Theyr'e regularly inspected by the state and there is no history of them doing any fetal tissue program or donation whatsoever in the state of Tennessee," Democratic Representative John Ray Clemmons said.

Congressmen Marsha Blackburn and Diane Black also testified, but about efforts on a national level to stop funding Planned Parenthood.

The group has received no money from the state of Tennessee.

Fetal tissue research has been done here in Nashville.

According to the National Institute of Health, both Vanderbilt and St. Jude have received federal grants to conduct those studies.

There has been no evidence that those samples were connected to the Planned Parenthood controversy.