April 8th 2000

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Articles from this issue:

EDITORIAL: Mr HowardÂ’s circuit-breaker

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Fishy business: WTOÂ’s salmon ruling NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Fishy business: WTOÂ’s salmon ruling


DRUGS: Random drug tests for politicians?

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: UNÂ’s unwelcome interest in local affairs

RURAL: Anger at NP inaction over low farm prices

TELECOMMUNICATIONS: Behind the new Telstra inquiry

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Divisions exposed in ranks of Victorian, NSW Liberals

WORK: Longer working hours: unions ignore developing social crisis

LETTERS: Rural debt a legacy of “get big or get out” mentality

ENVIRONMENT: How KyotoÂ’s greenhouse gas cuts will hit the hip-pocket

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Japan faces up to defence, immigration and overwork

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: ChinaÂ’s spiritual vacuum

UNITED STATES: Foetal tissue sales: “dirty secret” of US abortion industry

POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY: Democracy for all?

ECONOMICS: How globalisation puts profits before people

POPULATION: Why wonÂ’t Australian women have children?

BOOKS: 'GIVING SORROW WORDS: Women's stories of Post-Abortion Grief', by Melinda Tankard-Reist

BOOKS: 'Karl Marx', by Francis Wheen

Books promotion page

Foetal tissue sales: “dirty secret” of US abortion industry

by John Styles

News Weekly, April 8, 2000
John Styles is a Melbourne writer with a background in advertising and media

In the United States last October, Senator Robert Smith shone a light on what he called a "dirty little secret" of the US abortion industry: foetal tissue marketing.

In an address to the US Senate, Senator Smith said:

"A woman comes into an abortion clinic. She goes into the clinic, and she is talked to, advised to have an abortion. But what she may or may not know is that inside that clinic in a little room somewhere or some office that is not necessarily visible to her, is the harvester, the wholesaler, the person who is going to take her baby, cut it into pieces and sell it."

In 1993 in the United States, President Clinton removed the ban on the supply of foetal tissue for scientific and medical research. His administration altered the US Public Health Services Act, paving the way for baby parts to be harvested from abortion clinics. However, the actual sale of foetal tissue remained illegal.

The Act states that "it shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any human fetal tissue for valuable consideration". However, a loophole in the act allowed for "reasonable payments associated with the transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue".

That opened the way for a trade in baby parts. Senator Robert Smith described the harvesting chain:

1. The buyer orders the foetal body parts from the wholesaler/harvester.

2. The abortion clinic provides space for the wholesaler and harvester in the clinic to procure foetal body parts.

3. The wholesaler/harvester faxes an order to the abortion clinic.

4. The wholesaler's technician harvests the organs, skin, limbs from aborted babies.

5. The clinic "donates" foetal body parts to the wholesaler/harvester, who, in turn, pays the clinic a "site fee" for access to the aborted babies.

6. The wholesaler/harvester "donates" the foetal body parts to the buyer. The buyer then "reimburses" the wholesaler/harvester for the cost of retrieving the foetal body parts.

Senator Robert Smith said that the sale of baby parts went "far beyond the ethical boundaries that even most pro-choice Americans would find repugnant".

His address was based on the findings of investigations conducted by the Texas-based Life Dynamics Incorporated, an organisation founded in 1992 by pro-life activist Noel Crutcher. The organisation conducts extensive anti-abortion direct mail campaigns aimed at the medical community.

One compelling and chilling aspect of Life Dynamics' investigation into the marketing of baby parts centred on the revelations of "Kelly", an alleged former employee of a baby tissue harvester who "had seen first hand the reality of this tragedy".

The "Kelly" interview contained shocking and disturbing allegations, among them, the fact that late-term abortions "up to 30 plus" weeks were involved in the harvesting. "Kelly" claimed that "probably only 2 per cent" of the late-term abortions involved foetal abnormalities.

"The rest were very healthy donors - 95 per cent of the time - it was just that she was there to get rid of the baby." "Kelly" turned whistleblower when an abortion doctor at the clinic presented a set of twins at 24 weeks and still alive. The employee described other shocking practices.

The "Kelly" interview also contained references to the actual marketing and profiteering aspects of the business in baby parts, and told how doctors altered abortion procedures to deliver better (more valuable) specimens.

Committee hearing

Following Senator Smith's address to the Senate, the issue became the subject of a Congressional committee hearing on March 9.

According to a detailed statement issued by Life Dynamics, the hearing "was a disaster waiting to happen". Life Dynamics claimed the House committee "put their own political agenda ahead of the pro-life cause". The committee, against the advice of Life Dynamics, centred the hearing on the testimony of Dean Alberty, the "Kelly" of the original interview.

Alberty, who Life Dynamics described as "our abortion industry infiltrator", remained pro-choice according to the organisation. Associated Press reported that under oath Alberty told the Committee "he had no knowledge of a profiteering scheme" despite what he claimed on his original videotaped interview.

According to AP, Alberty testified, "Anything I said on the video when I was not under oath, that is a different story." However, in its statement, Life Dynamics pointed out that "even under brutal assault by Committee pro-aborts, he [Alberty] never wavered in his statement that living children who had survived their abortions - including the twins he described in the "Kelly" interview - were sometimes brought to him to be chopped up for parts."

In concentrating mainly on Alberty, the Committee ignored substantial documentary evidence that Life Dynamics' investigation had uncovered. "We provided them with orders for baby parts, price lists for baby parts, brochures and advertising materials for baby parts, internal abortion industry financial records related to the sale of baby parts, abortion clinic protocols for the harvesting of baby parts, and much more," Life Dynamics said.

If Senator Robert Smith thought the facts about the sale of baby parts would breach the ethical boundaries of pro-choice Americans, he would have been disappointed by the reaction of the House Committee members. The American Life League representative at the hearing reported that while members of the audience were gasping with disgust at Alberty's testimony, "most committee members were much more concerned that the hearings and investigation would put a damper on foetal tissue research".

Christina Dunigan, a one-time employee of Life Dynamics and Pro-Life Views guide at About.com, reported that the organisation's revelations were so shocking that "people are having a tough time believing it".

While acknowledging that she doesn't always agree with Life Dynamics, Ms Dunigan attested to the organisation's reliability. "Life Dynamics does not go off half-cocked. They do not go public with something they can't substantiate. Period." Christina Dunigan, claimed to have abstracted "thousands upon thousands of source documents" when she worked for Life Dynamics, and has tested each aspect of the organisation's latest claims with what has already been documented.

Ms Dunigan wrote that she is not surprised about Life Dynamics' claims about live births and the killing of babies born live during abortions, nor about abortion facilities "using loopholes in the law to get away with the things that are supposed to be illegal".

"When you examine the individual components of the foetal parts sales story," Ms Dunigan wrote, "they're all the old familiar themes, things we've seen documented time and time again. They've come together in a new and disgusting way, but anyone who has watched the abortion industry closely is not surprised."

On March 9, The Kansas City Star reported that after an emotional hearing, members of the House subcommittee had called "for a federal criminal investigation into whether foetal tissue was illegally extracted and marketed out of an Overland Park clinic where abortions are performed".

The committee, the paper said, sought to discover "if laws restricting the methods and fees allowed for fetal tissue work are being violated in Kansas or elsewhere".

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