Federal Investigation Opened Into Pitt Over Fetal Tissue Experiments, Emails Show
The US Department of Health and Human Services building is seen in Washington, DC, on July 22, 2019. (Photo by Alastair Pike / AFP)
Credit: Photo by ALASTAIR PIKE/AFP via Getty Images.

The inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) opened up an investigation into the University of Pittsburgh after it was accused of illegally harvesting fetal tissue from aborted babies for experimentation, according to newly released emails. 

The documents were obtained as part of a public records request from Judicial Watch and the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), the organization that released footage in 2015 showing Planned Parenthood executives discussing the sale of body parts from aborted babies. The new emails show university officials confirming in November 2021 that they had been subpoenaed by the HHS Office of Inspector General agent.

“The University of Pittsburgh has been a center for some of the most barbaric experiments, government funded experiments, on the body parts of late-term aborted babies,” CMP President David Daleiden told The Daily Wire. “We now have the first confirmation with these FOIA documents that this is all subject of a formal federal law enforcement investigation of the OIG [Office of Inspector General].”

In 2019, the CMP first reported on the gruesome experiments conducted at Pitt. These experiments included scalping five-month-old fetuses in order to stitch their scalps and back skin onto lab rats and transporting fetal kidneys to other researchers.

According to the emails, Pitt’s Senior Vice Chancellor for Research Dr. Rob Rutenba acknowledged the existence of a federal probe into the school in response to an email from NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research Dr. Michael Lauer requesting information on the fetal tissue projects at the university. 

“With regard to your request for documentation/information, please be aware that we received a subpoena from HHS OIG requesting similar documentation on October 28, 2021,” Rutenba wrote on Friday, November 2021. “We are happy to provide the requested information to both you and the HHS OIG, however, [redacted] instructed us not to provide the documentation you have requested information until he has had the opportunity to speak with you.”

The status of the HHS OIG investigation is not known. “We don’t know the results of the OIG investigation yet. We don’t know if the OIG has further referred that investigation to the FBI or the Department of Justice. The University of Pittsburgh has been completely in damage control mode,” Daleiden said. 

Agents with the HHS OIG have the ability to make arrests, conduct surveillance, serve search warrants, and seize evidence. The HHS OIG office told The Daily Wire that they could “neither confirm nor deny the existence of any investigation, should there be any.”

The scrutiny on Pitt focuses on its GenitoUrinary Development Molecular Anatomy Project (GUDMAP) program, which is believed to have run from 2016-2021. Daleiden describes the program as “an NIH-sponsored program for harvesting and distributing late-term aborted fetal kidneys and other body parts to other NIH-funded projects across the country.” 

In response to the reports and allegations of illegal activities, Pitt hired an “outside law firm” to look at its fetal tissue experiment program. The report from the firm claimed that Pitt was in compliance with state and federal law and the university has denied any wrongdoing.


“As we have stated in the past: Fetal tissue research plays a critical role in advancing life-saving discoveries. We remain committed to maintaining robust internal controls and to extending our record of compliance at the state and federal levels, and we take these responsibilities seriously,” a Pitt spokesman said in January 2022. 

Republicans have continued to push for a review of Pitt’s activities and have demanded an audit from the HHS inspector general. 

“I think that the fact that a federal law enforcement agency like OIG thought that the information and allegations about the grant application were serious enough to open an investigation shows that the issue of fetal trafficking and selling aborted baby parts is not going away for the abortion industry,” Daleiden said. 

The University of Pittsburgh did not immediately return a request for comment.

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