PPFA Supplies Fetal Body Parts for Experimentation

By Randall K. O'Bannon, Ph.D.
NRL Education Director

Those who tuned into ABC's news weekly 20/20 on March 8, 2000, watched as correspondent Chris Wallace produced evidence of what he termed "a thriving industry in which aborted fetuses women donate to help medical research are being marketed for hundreds, even thousands of dollars." Wallace interviewed several people involved in the harvesting of fetal body parts and produced a price list from one firm, Opening Lines, offering fetal spinal cords for $325, fetal reproductive organs for $550, fetal brains for $999 (if less than eight weeks), and the like.

As part of his report, Wallace sought reactions from both pro-life and "pro-choice" perspectives. Among those he spoke to was Planned Parenthood President Gloria Feldt. Feldt gave what appeared to be a strong condemnation of the whole sordid affair. Presented with ABC's findings, Feldt told Wallace

It seems inappropriate. Totally inappropriate. Where there is wrongdoing, it should be prosecuted. People who are doing that kind of thing should be should be brought to justice.

However, those who read Feldt's statements as a repudiation of the practice of dissecting aborted babies and using their body parts for research are mistaken. Not only does Planned Parenthood support the harvesting of baby parts for research, but it actually also has at least one clinic that helped supply aborted babies to firms featured in Wallace's 20/20 report.

BACKGROUND

In a February 16, 2000, statement released to members of Congress investigating trafficking in fetal body parts, Planned Parenthood of America went to great lengths to explain and justify the association of its Overland Park, Kansas, clinic with two firms supplying fetal parts to researchers. It claimed that it "in effect, inherited" the contract that existed between the clinic and the Anatomic Gift Foundation, a fetal parts collector and supplier, when Planned Parenthood acquired the clinic in April 1997. Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri (PPKM) terminated that contract in July 1998.

Rather than walk away from a distasteful practice, however, PPKM then entered into a new contract with Consultative and Diagnostic Pathology. According to Planned Parenthood, in addition to standard pathology services, the company was also "authorized to collect fetal tissue for distribution to medical researchers under a subsidiary program called Opening Lines." That contract lasted "about 4 or 5 months" before being terminated by PPKM chief executive officer Patty Brouse. The reasons behind the termination of these contracts are "sketchy," Planned Parenthood indicated, because Brouse passed away in September 1999.

Precisely how these operations were set up is worth noting. Neither Planned Parenthood nor its abortion clients actually "sell" the dissected fetal parts to the collection firms. This was made illegal by the NIH Revitalization Act passed by Congress in 1993. That act makes it unlawful "to knowingly acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any human fetal tissue for valuable consideration if the transfer affects interstate commerce."

The act exempts, however, "reasonable payments associated with the transportation, implantation, processing, preservation quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue." Planned Parenthood, and the fetal parts suppliers who contract with it, have seized on that language as a way of collecting money.

There is no indication that Anatomic Gift Foundation or Opening Lines paid Planned Parenthood for the aborted babies or fetal parts it collected. However, Planned Parenthood does admit that it "rented office and storage space" at its Overland Park, Kansas, clinic to the Anatomic Gift Foundation and then later "rented space" to Opening Lines.

Such firms, apparently, circumvent the law, not by charging researchers for the actual aborted babies' organs, but by charging fees for collecting, processing, or shipping the fetal body parts. Planned Parenthood, in turn, collects money by "renting" office and storage space to the firms collecting and dissecting the babies aborted at the clinic (and presumably saves money related to the disposal of the corpses).

Thus, while no one actually "buys" or "sells" the aborted babies or their organs, everyone is able to collect money- - 1except for the mother who gives up her aborted baby for "research."

In a March 8, 2000, letter to a member of Congress, rather than decry the fetal parts trade that has sprung up around the fringes of the law, PPFA President Feldt hailed medical research that used fetal tissue for "making a profound impact on potentially lifesaving research by bringing us closer to cures and therapeutic treatment for many serious diseases."

Her call for prosecution of wrongdoing, mentioned in the 20/20 interview, is more specifically limited in this letter to those who violate "reasonable regulations that protect participants in the fetal tissue donation process from coercion, from improper incentives, or from medical misconduct."

Nothing here precludes Planned Parenthood (or any other abortion clinic) from passing along aborted babies to professional, rent-paying, baby dissectors, so long as the clinic gets the mother's informed consent and doesn't offer her some "improper" inducement, such as a cash reimbursement, to give up the baby's body.

While Planned Parenthood has given the most details about the involvement of its Overland Park, Kansas clinic with the fetal parts collection firms, the Kansas clinic is not necessarily the only or even the last Planned Parenthood clinic to be involved in such practices. Feldt admitted to the Kansas City Star (3/31/2000) that four out of about 70 clinics affiliated with Planned Parenthood are set up for fetal tissue donation.2

FOOTNOTES:

1. The Anatomic Gift Foundation has since claimed to have gotten out of the fetal tissue collection business entirely.

2. Since Planned Parenthood has 850 clinics or "health centers," it is unclear whether Feldt is speaking of just those clinics in the Planned Parenthood Kansas and Mid-Missouri affiliate, the total number of Planned Parenthood affiliates offering abortion (74, according to Planned Parenthood's latest annual report), or something else.