October 29, 1999
When told something bizarre or horrifying, we usually say: "I can't believe that!" Sometimes though the impossible is commonplace. We just didn't know it. I hope that's not the case now. But I fear it is.
Soon after the Supreme Court legalized abortion-on-demand, some predicted that a few enterprising folks would find a way to make money from all the dead bodies. If reports are true, that prediction was "right on the money."
Life Dynamics, a Texas-based pro-life organization, has assembled a great deal of information about trafficking in fetal remains. The group filmed a discussion with a "pro-choice" woman who said she used to harvest fetal tissue inside abortion clinics--until an abortionist handed over still-breathing twins for her to dissect. According to the woman, when she balked at working on live "fetuses," the abortionist drowned the twins in the bucket they were in. Then they were dead twins. The same organization has made available interviews reportedly conducted with people who run the Anatomic Gift Foundation and Opening Lines, two companies that get dead baby parts into the hands of researchers. For a price.
If all that is coming to light is even close to accurate, we need not fear any longer sliding down a slippery slope. We've hit bottom. And to borrow a phrase from journalist Paul Greenberg, we are instead "looking up the slippery slope."
Life Dynamics has reproduced forms showing universities and pharmaceutical companies ordering up baby parts obtained from Planned Parenthood clinics. Some want eyes, others hearts, livers, blood products, lungs and limbs, even a "whole intact leg, includ(ing the) entire hip joint." Orders may specify the need for "fresh" tissue, insisting even that it must be taken within 10 minutes of the child's "passing." Some indicate desired gestational age (e.g., 20-24 weeks), preparation for shipping (e.g., "snap frozen") and shipping method (e.g., wet or dry ice, overnight or not). There are even price lists for services and parts.
The more you read, the more disbelief gives way to numbness, and then you start making connections. Like how many researchers call for fresh fetal specimens of advanced gestational age which are free from defect. That blows a great big hole in the assertion made by abortion advocates that late abortions are performed primarily because of fetal anomaly.
In the United States it is against the law to make money from the sale of human bodies or human body parts. Those trafficking in fetal tissue say no one is selling body parts: reportedly some abortion clinics donate dead fetuses to those who harvest the parts; the harvester pays the clinic a "site fee" (rent for the spaced used for dissecting), and researchers pay "service fees" for getting fetal tissue to them. Yet price lists look exactly like costs for particular pieces. For example, a whole dead fetus costs appreciably more than, say, a spinal cord. But one would think--if you can even bear to think about this--that if the cost is based on "service," wouldn't it be more expensive to obtain a spinal cord because retrieving it would entail some "work"?
The woman who once harvested fetal tissue told Life Dynamics she knew of abortionists determining the method of abortion--not out of concern for the mother's safety--but to insure retrieval of fetal parts researchers had ordered. If you have to fill an order for fetal legs, for example, you can't dismember the child in her mother's womb or her legs might be chopped up or cut off in the wrong place and thus be of less financial value or maybe even worthless. And researchers say they don't want parts from those killed by saline or digoxin because chemicals taint the "specimen." Of course, vacuum aspiration wouldn't leave much of anything intact, and besides many tissue requests are for specimens from older fetuses when vacuum aspiration can't be used anyway simply because the child is too large. That doesn't leave much, except maybe hysterotomy (caesarean followed by strangulation or suffocation), live birth, or partial-birth abortion.
If true, we are looking at an industry that already makes its money from killing, now making even more money by killing in ways that will allow even greater profits. A filthy industry. And totally unregulated.
Have we become so desensitized by the volume and banality of abortion that we can't see the humanity of those who die at the abortionist's hands? After all, every unborn child whose life is ended by abortion is a member of the human family and somebody's baby. Do we care? Women who have abortions struggle with that decision because they know that if they have an abortion their own child will die. And now who is going to tell them that what clinic staff assured them was only a "blob of tissue," not a baby, actually had body parts that got sliced up and shipped out to research clinics?
Yet trafficking in fetal body parts seems to be a growth industry. The availability of fresh specimens is advertised in brochures and on the Internet. In language designed to soothe.
Turn your patient's decision into something wonderful, encourages an Opening Lines brochure for abortion clinic doctors and administrators. It explains that "President Clinton lifted the moratorium on federal funding of research involving transplantation of fetal tissue from induced abortions," thus creating "a great demand for fetal tissue." In lifting the moratorium, President Clinton also opened a door through which entrepreneurs have rushed through, filling a demand for an endless supply of baby body parts.
True? Sure sounds like it is. Opening Lines proudly advertises its wares. "Our goal," it says, "is to offer . . . the highest quality, most affordable and freshest tissue prepared to your specifications and delivered in the quantities you need when you need it."
On October 21, Senator Bob Smith of New Hampshire brought these reports to the attention of his colleagues in the United States Senate, and on that same day the Catholic bishops urged Congress to conduct extensive hearings and called on investigative reporters to look into these reports to determine their validity. To find out if abortionists, as these reports claim, are committing infanticide and performing abortions in ways calculated to produce the maximum of fresh human body parts for sale.
And there you have it.
Gail Quinn is Executive Director of the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, D.C.
Note to the Editor:
On pages 2 and 3 there is text in boldface. If you want to shorten the text--which is overly long--the text is boldface could be dropped--as could the very first paragraph of the column.