The Law Allows Selling Fetal Body Parts — So Reform It

Ultrasound of fetus at 20 weeks. (Suzanne Tucker/Dreamstime)

What’s striking about the reactions to the shocking video of Planned Parenthood medical director Deborah Nucatola has been what the pro-life side and the abortion apologists have each gotten right about the story. The pro-life community has reacted with justified outrage at this display of extreme callousness toward unborn human life — Nucatola’s talk, over a business lunch, of “crushing” different parts of an unborn child’s body is simply repugnant, and that medical, legal, and political elites in this country participate in such behavior with flagrant disregard for the sanctity of human life is a scandal.

What the abortion apologists seem to get right, however, is that this video does not present compelling evidence that Planned Parenthood is violating existing law against the sale of fetal tissue. Investigations and audits of Planned Parenthood clinics are surely warranted, and anyone found guilty of profiting from the sale of fetal tissue should be prosecuted. But as Joe Carter, writing for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, explains, “this despicable practice of selling the body parts of aborted children is likely to be legal and an accepted, if not common practice, among abortion providers.”

The real horrifying lesson from the story is this: The practices described by Nucatola are legal and widely conducted. Consider, for example, the work being done openly by the California biotech startup Ganogen. The company is proposing to take kidneys from aborted human fetuses and transplant them into rats or pigs to grow the kidneys so they can then be used for medical research or transplantation into humans. Ganogen has already conducted experiments placing human kidneys from aborted fetuses into rats.

RELATED: Planned Parenthood’s Bloody Business

No federal law prohibits the use of tissues from aborted fetuses for research, and few states prohibit the practice. In fact, federal law explicitly permits the use of taxpayer dollars to fund research using tissue from aborted fetuses.

Federal law explicitly permits the use of taxpayer dollars to fund research using tissue from aborted fetuses.

Focusing on just how ordinary, how widespread these grisly practices are for the abortion industry, and how much it is corrupting the moral integrity of medicine and medical research, will arguably do more toward putting abortion on the road to ultimate extinction than will calling for the prosecution of a few abortionists or Planned Parenthood executives. The pro-life community should use the outrage generated by stories like these to show Americans the profound evil of the entire abortion industry, and to push for actions that will put a stop to its worst excesses.

There are a number of legislative actions that could be taken to at least curb the shocking practices described in this video. Enacting the 20-week abortion ban would help to stop some of the most gruesome of these abortions. If a complete ban on fetal-tissue research seems politically infeasible, Congress should at least prohibit the federal government from funding research using tissue obtained from aborted fetuses, a step that will encourage scientists to pursue more-ethical lines of research. Even more politically realistic would be closing the loophole in the fetal-tissue law that allows for “reasonable payments” associated with the costs of the “processing” and “quality control” of body parts collected from unborn children. Closing this loophole would make it harder for abortionists to, as Nucatola put it, “do a little better than break even,” and would be another way to encourage researchers to focus on more-ethical sources of stem cells and tissues.

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Dr. Nucatola and abortionists like her should be stopped from butchering unborn children, and medical researchers should stop trafficking in tissues and organs obtained from abortion. We in the pro-life movement should do what we can to both put an end to the evils of abortion, and also to cleanse the otherwise noble medical research community of the stain of its complicity in the killing of unborn children. 


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