NASHVILLE -- The chairmen of two House and Senate panels will hold a joint "fact-finding" hearing next month to examine enforcement of Tennessee's law banning sales of aborted fetuses in the wake of a controversy over the issue regarding national Planned Parenthood.
Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, and Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, said the meeting was spurred by the release of two videos by the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group.
The video, according to Bell and Faison's release, allegedly shows "national-level executives of Planned Parenthood discussing prices for intact fetal specimens and methods to destroy a fetus without harming organs or tissues considered valuable for sale to vendors."
"The gruesome videos released by the Center for Medical Progress have implications at Planned Parenthood affiliates nationwide, including those located here in Tennessee," said Bell, noting the panels intend to delve into Planned Parenthood operations in Tennessee.
The national Planned Parenthood group says the "sting" videos, based on interviews conducted with hidden cameras, were selectively edited to portray the organization in the worst possible light.
Jeff Teague, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Middle and East Tennessee, said, "I think it's important to know that Planned Parenthood in Tennessee doesn't participate in any tissue donation program."
"We're totally in compliance with all state and federal laws," Teague added. "I think this hearing is going to confirm that and I think it's going to end up being a big waste of time and taxpayer dollars."
Calling the hearing "completely unnecessary," Teague said, "it's obvious if you've seen any of those videos they've been heavily edited to make Planned Parenthood look like they're doing something that's not right.
"You cannot sell any sort of human tissue for research," Teague added. "That is against state law in most states."
He said medical researchers can legally use the tissue for "finding treatments like Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's" and have been used in developing vaccines. Clinics are legally allowed to "recoup the cost of the proper handling, storage and transport of the donated tissue to research facilities," Teague said.
Bell said in an interview that state Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner will testify at the Aug. 19 hearing, which he emphasized was previously scheduled.
"I appreciate what the leader of the largest provider and profiteer for abortion has to say," Bell said of Teague. "We want to make sure this practice is not going on in Tennessee. It may not be and we want to make sure it's not."
Tennessee law states no person, agency, corporation, partnership or association shall offer or accept money or anything of value for an aborted fetus. The 1989 law carries a one- to six-year year jail term and a fine of up to $3,000.
Faison said in a statement, "Regardless of where you stand on abortion, we can all agree that what we have seen Planned Parenthood do is abhorrent! The Tennessee Department of Health must take all precautions to see that his never happens in our state."
Contact staff writer Andy Sher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-255-0550.