Despite the apparent pride with which Planned Parenthood views its role in the fetal tissue and organ market, the organization's website is strangely silent on the practice. A search of Planned Parenthood's website for information on fetal tissue donation and research reveals only recent comments and statements since the release of the videos. The site includes eight "fact sheets" concerning abortion, but there is nothing about fetal tissue donation/research in any of those nor any of the other fact sheets, either. A special section of the website is specifically designed to answer questions about abortion and the various options and considerations of which women may have questions, but this section is likewise silent about fetal tissue donation. Elsewhere on the site is a nine page document entitled "Policy on Financial Conflicts of Interest in Research," but again there is no specific mention of fetal tissue research.
Planned Parenthood, however, has not always avoided the issue. An archived version of the organization's website from 2002 includes a footnoted fact sheet of some 2,200 words entitled "Donating Fetal Tissue for Medical Treatment and Research." Early on, the fact sheet addresses some of the basic rules that are supposed to apply when a fetal tissue donation takes place [citations excluded here and following]:
A woman's choice to donate to medical research tissue that she has aborted begins and ends with her. Federal and state laws have been specifically written to ensure that her choice to donate tissue from her abortion to medical research is made in an informed and ethical manner. First, she is legally required to give her written consent to have an abortion. Only after she has consented to have an abortion can she provide the necessary written consent to donate the fetal tissue. She cannot be paid for the donation. She cannot know or designate the recipient.Following this is a paragraph that reflects Planned Parenthood's present day "humanitarian undertaking" characterization of fetal tissue donation, suggesting that a woman may mitigate her "sense of loss" with the "social good" of tissue donation from her abortion:
Knowing she can donate tissue from her abortion to potentially lifesaving medical research may help a woman turn an unintended pregnancy about which she may feel a sense of loss into a social good. The choice to donate often gives solace to women who may need to end their pregnancies.The document also includes a section entitled "The Medical Promise of Embryonic and Fetal Tissue", which says in part [emphasis added]:
Embryonic and fetal tissue consist of tissue or cells from a nonviable human embryo or fetus that has been obtained through a spontaneous or induced abortion, or stillbirth...
Researchers customarily obtain embryonic cells and fetal tissue through private arrangements with individual, nearby obstetricians. Due to its fragile nature, the tissue must be immediately transported by researchers to their laboratories or some other location where it can be safely stored and kept from deteriorating.
While solid organs are obtained and distributed through the national Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, there is no formal, organized, national network for procuring and distributing embryonic and fetal tissue. Organizations interact directly with private laboratories or pharmaceutical companies that perform medical research with embryonic and fetal tissue. They are often reimbursed for evaluation, preservation, storage and transportation of the tissue.Laws that "protect women" and also regulate fetal tissue donation are discussed as well. In this section, Planned Parenthood notes that fetal organs and tissues fall under the definition of "human organs" according to federal law [emphasis added]:
There are two principal federal laws and numerous state laws that apply to the use of embryonic cells and fetal tissue for medical transplantation and research.
The National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA), adopted by Congress in 1984, provides for donations of organs and tissues for research or transplantation. NOTA was amended in 1988 to include fetal organs and tissues under the definition of "human organs" (USCA, 1988).This section also discussed President Bill Clinton's executive order, shortly after taking office, lifting the existing ban on the use of federal funds for fetal tissue research, and also Congress's actions to mitigate the effects of that order:
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Revitalization Act of 1993 specifically authorizes federal support for research on the transplantation of human fetal tissue for therapeutic purposes, whether the tissue is obtained after a spontaneous or induced abortion or a stillbirth. Congress passed this act after President Clinton's executive order lifting the ban on federal funding for fetal tissue research that was put in place during the Reagan administration. The act requires a woman to consent — in writing — to the abortion before the option of tissue donation is discussed. It prohibits her from knowing or restricting the identity of the recipient. It requires that she be informed of her physician's interest, if any, in the research to be conducted with the tissue. It also prohibits the alteration of the timing, method, or procedures used to terminate the pregnancy, if such alteration is made solely for the purpose of obtaining the tissue. Penalties for violating this law include a fine or up to 10 years in prison, or both.Some of the videos recently released have called into question whether or not some Planned Parenthood clinics are engaged in an "alteration of the timing, method, or procedures used to terminate the pregnancy" in order to preserve the quality of the fetal organs and tissue obtained during abortions thereby increasing the value. The Planned Parenthood fact sheet also noted the prohibition on the sale of organs and tissue, with the caveat of "reasonable payments" being permitted to cover expenses:
Both NOTA and the NIH Revitalization Act of 1993 prohibit the sale of human organs and tissues for research or transplantation. Both do permit, however, "reasonable payments" associated with the removal, transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, and storage of the tissue.Finally, the fact sheet discusses an event from the late 1990s that mirrors the circumstances surrounding the release of the secretly-recorded videos this past July. A pro-life group, Life Dynamics Incorporated, made similar charges about abortion providers profiting from fetal organs and tissue obtained from abortions. While Planned Parenthood considered the accusations largely discredited, the evidence was clear enough to prompt a statement from the organization decrying the "about the attempt by some to profit from the humanitarian contributions of courageous women," a euphemism for selling fetal organs and tissue for profit:
In an attack on research using fetal tissue, the anti-choice organization Life Dynamics Incorporated accused abortion providers of performing abortions to profit from the sale of embryonic and fetal tissue (Life Dynamics Incorporated, 1999). Subsequently, the House of Representatives passed a resolution calling for congressional hearings to investigate so-called "trafficking in baby body parts for profit" (H.R. 350, 1999). The House Commerce Subcommittee on Health and the Environment conducted a meeting in March 2000. One key witness testifying about alleged abuses was discredited, and another key witness failed to appear and was held in contempt of Congress. Although no actual "trafficking" was conclusively identified in the hearings, Planned Parenthood went on the record to say that "Planned Parenthood supports research using fetal tissue in accordance with legal and ethical guidelines and is deeply concerned about the attempt by some to profit from the humanitarian contributions of courageous women."While Planned Parenthood and its allies today continue to deny they are engaged in the sale of fetal tissue for profit, one of the private companies that supplies researchers with the fetal tissue and organs obtained from Planned Parenthood and other clinics is not shy about touting profits from the process. Even after the recent accusations and denials by Planned Parenthood and others, StemExpress, a tissue supplier featured in some of the secretly recorded videos, has not revised the "partnerships" portion of its website that speaks of "financial profits" and their "program that fiscally rewards clinics" who supply the "human tissue products," including "fetal":
While Planned Parenthood avoids addressing fetal tissue donation on its website, the organization clearly participates in the process with some of its top national officials either appearing in the secretly recorded videos or defending the practice in the media. The 2002 fact sheet noted that "there is no formal, organized, national network for procuring and distributing embryonic and fetal tissue." Statements on the secretly recorded video by at least one Planned Parenthood official seemed to suggest the organization might be interested in remedying that omission. Now that a light is being shined on the present state of this disturbing supply chain, those plans may be scuttled for good.