Federal and some state laws permit fetal tissue research, and although some regulation of the practice exists, there appear to be gaps in oversight. Few have firsthand knowledge of the secretive networks that procure the tissue, and no central agency or organization tracks them. But an uncomfortable reality is clear: The overwhelming majority of fetal tissue used for research in the United States is obtained from aborted babies. ...Some contend that since aborted unborn children have already died, we might as well make use of their bodies for a good end. But there is a moral difference between using the remains of a human being who has died of natural causes and using the remains of someone who has been unjustly killed.
To learn firsthand how tissue makes its way to research labs, I reached by phone the executive director of an abortion clinic that allows women to donate their fetuses. Jennifer Boulanger of the Allentown Women's Center in Allentown, Pa., said her clinic supplies tissue to the University of Washington. She said her clinic is not paid for the donations, but the university provides her staff with the supplies needed to collect and ship the specimens.
In order to abide by state law, the clinic's workers don't tell women about the donation program until after they have made the decision to abort. Boulanger explained that although women must be a certain number of weeks along in their pregnancies to qualify for the program, "I would say the majority of those who are eligible choose to donate."
To ensure tissue freshness, "the specimens are FedExed overnight" to Seattle, she said. Boulanger didn't have at hand the number of specimens her clinic provides annually, but she estimated, "I don't think it's any more than 10 a week."
The recipient, named misleadingly the Birth Defects Research Laboratory at the University of Washington in Seattle, has been sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for over four decades. It's known within the research community as a top government distributor of fetal tissue. Last year the Puget Sound Business Journal stated the lab "in 2009 filled more than 4,400 requests for fetal tissue and cell lines."
The lab's grant records indicate it received $579,091 from the NIH last year. To date, it has retrieved the products of 22,000 pregnancies. According to a description the lab provided in its most recent grant applications, an increase in nonsurgical abortion methods has "created new obstacles to obtaining sufficient amounts of high quality tissue. To overcome these problems and meet increasing demand, the Laboratory has developed new relationships with both local and distant clinics." ...
Theresa A. Deisher, a scientist specializing in adult stem cells, told me stem-cell lines from aborted fetuses have been used to create cosmetic products and several common vaccines, including chickenpox vaccines: "I know the most terrific abusers of the products of abortion are academic scientists, across the board."
The nonprofit group that Deisher founded in 2008, Sound Choice Pharmaceutical Institute, stands in Seattle as a sort of rebuttal to the University of Washington's birth defects lab. "Its mission is to educate people about the pervasive use of morally illicit material in the biomedical industry" and other industries, she said. ...
With state regulation of fetal donation spotty, Deisher fears that young women facing unplanned pregnancies may be enticed to abort with the promise that "great medical advances" will come from their fetuses: "What a terrible thing, to exploit those young women in such a vulnerable period."
But as long as fetal tissue is in demand and sparsely regulated, they'll continue to be solicited.
"Only if nothing can be done to prevent the ongoing evil does the argument from salvaging good have merit," write J.P. Moreland and Scott Rae. "Surely one is not justified in obtaining a benefit from evil while doing nothing to prevent it."