Lawmakers to Consider Fetal Tissue Laws

Austin, Texas (TexasTribune) – Texas lawmakers will meet Thursday to examine policies on how human fetal tissue can be used for scientific research. It will be the first hearing on the subject since a Harris County grand jury in January indicted two undercover videographers who circulated videos about how fetal tissue was procured at Planned Parenthood clinics.

The issue came under heavy scrutiny from Republican leaders in Texas last year after the videographers, David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, accused Planned Parenthood of breaking a federal law that bans the sale of fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood has vehemently denied the accusations, which were dismissed by a Houston grand jury. That grand jury instead chose to indict the videographers on charges of tampering with a governmental record.

A Senate Health and Human Services Committee hearing in July 2015 became the venue for lawmakers to criticize Planned Parenthood and air their concerns about the videos.

Rally in support of Planned Parenthood. Image Source: Fibonacci Blue, Flickr, Creative Commons.

Rally in support of Planned Parenthood.
Image Source: Fibonacci Blue, Flickr, Creative Commons.

Thursday’s hearing of the House State Affairs Committee, chaired by state Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, is expected to produce fewer fireworks. Cook’s committee will hear about the policies used by researchers “to adhere to the highest ethical standards” for acquiring fetal tissue, under orders from House Speaker Joe Straus.

A spokeswoman for Cook did not respond to a request for comment. A spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood said the organization was not invited to testify.

The sale of fetal tissue is illegal. But if a patient consents, abortion clinics may donate fetal tissue for use in medical research. Federal law allows clinics to be reimbursed for costs “associated with the transportation, implantation, processing preservation, quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue” for research purposes. 

Disclosure: Planned Parenthood has been a financial sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

This report prepared by  for The Texas Tribune.