House Committee: STEMExpress Violated Federal Privacy Laws

Charlie McKenna | June 2, 2016

The House Congressional Committee on Energy and Commerce issued a statement Wednesday indicating their strong suspicion that certain abortion providers violated privacy and informed consent laws through their partnership.

The statement is addressed to the Office of Centralized Case Management Operations at HHS Director, Jocelyn Samuels and HHS Office for Human Research Protections Director Jerry Menikoff. It calls for them to use the findings of the Committee as grounds to investigate the institutions.

The letter from Select Investigative Panel Chair Rep. Marsh Blackburn (R-Tenn.) claims that tissue and body part provider StemExpress violated laws protecting the patient’s privacy and through this violation pressured patients of the abortion clinics involved to donate their “POC” (products of conception).

Essentially, StemExpress was (and still probably is) in contact with labs needing certain “specimens” who would tell StemExpress exactly what sort of “POC” they needed.  StemExpress would then look at the records of their contact abortion clinics to see if there were any procedures that day which matched the lab’s request.

But that’s the problem. The abortion clinic is not allowed under HIPAA to disclose patient information, as neither party had medical need of it. The sole reason to disclose the information is for profit ($55-75 per body part!) which flagrantly exploits the patient, and breaks the law.

It is also suspect whether StemExpress was approved by a valid Institutional Review Board (IRB) which is necessary for research on any human subject to ensure ethical practice.

Blackburn states at the end of the letter to Menikoff that the dealings constitute both a violation of federal privacy law and a betrayal of the trust women place in these organizations:

“The key to understanding the HIPAA and consent violations that we’ve referred to HHS is that there’s a business contract between StemExpress and the abortion clinics under which both sides make a profit from the baby body parts inside the young woman’s womb. The contract changes the way both entities view the young woman: her baby is now a profit-center. This betrayal of a young woman’s trust should disgust us all. It takes financial advantage, obtains consent through coercion, and deceives the woman, all in violation of federal privacy laws.”