- - Wednesday, April 27, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Planned Parenthood, a vastly profitable, tax-subsidized consortium that performs more than 300,000 abortions a year, is the target of five different congressional investigations. Last September its president, Cecile Richards, categorically denied accusations by the House Oversight Committee that the organization profits from the sale of fetal tissue. She did not deny that her company spends millions on the political campaigns of politicians such as Hillary Clinton who have promised to keep the tax-money spigot open, and she did not deny her half-million-plus salary. Furthermore, she insisted that Planned Parenthood does not make a single dollar in profit from selling fetal parts to tissue procurement companies like Stem Express.

Selling body parts, whether for research or transplant from living or dead donors, or from aborted fetuses, is considered highly unethical. History has taught us that the pressing interests of medical research need to be constrained by ethics that balance the rights and welfare of human beings with the desire to advance science. Scientific history is littered with awful instances when this balance has not been struck. Even worse are cases where unethical research is performed with the motive of profit, sacrificing the rights of men and women on the altar of Mammon.

It was in order to prevent the sordid trafficking in fetal baby parts that the House passed the Waxman Amendment in 1993, which reads: “It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any human fetal tissue for valuable consideration . [This does not include] reasonable payments associated with the transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue.”

The lawmakers were rightfully afraid that women who were already distressed by the fear and abandonment that led them to seek an abortion would be further harassed by greedy abortionists asking them to sign away the remains of their fetus to advance biomedical research. They were also afraid that those same abortion clinics would be enticed by the chance of making an extra buck on the sale, and press women who came to them for “choices” to go ahead with the procedure instead of choosing life for their son or daughter.

A House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives has been investigating fetal tissue procurement by Planned Parenthood, seeking to get to the bottom of the dismal issue. There is quite a paper trail connecting the corporation to Stem Express, and profit is the motivating factor that is stamped all over it. One exhibit is a brochure aimed at clinics that touts the “financially profitable” venture of selling the products of conception. They seem to understand the altruistic impulse of advancing biomedical research won’t even get clinicians in the door if the profit motive is lacking.

Planned Parenthood’s assertion that the money they received from the procurement company was spent lawfully processing and transporting the tissue is belied by evidence that shows the “turnkey or plug-in” service provided by the procurement companies. Evidence shows that these companies paid Planned Parenthood by the fetal part (gruesome drop-down menus are included), and helpfully took ALL the trouble to consent the patient, harvest the eyes, livers and limbs, and transport their grisly cargo. Payments from researcher to the procurer ranged from limbs with hands and feet attached at almost $900 to fetal brains at over $2,000. Payment to Planned Parenthood was much smaller for each part, and rightfully so, since the expenditure was all on the procurer’s side. It’s really an ingenious business for everyone involved. Or at least it would be if it were legal and ethical.

While Planned Parenthood defended its actions loudly when they first they came to light, it also took care to stop the sale of the fetal parts. The “couple” of clinics that were participating in the program turned out to be numbered at nearly 100 in 2015. A vastly profitable venture between a national abortion clinic trade association and the procurement business would have put the number of clinics at more than 250. This contract was not ratified because the public release of videotapes showing the grisly buying and selling process brought it all to a crashing halt.

Pro-choice advocates who stand staunchly behind Planned Parenthood insist that the company is solely interested in the welfare of women. They say it is altruistic and caring, and deserves federal and state support as it comes to the assistance of needy women everywhere. The gross ethical lapse of selling body parts for profit, if proven, will be a shiny black eye for the abortion giant. It is one that could very well lead to the realization that tax money intended to help women should be given instead to organizations that follow the law and the most basic medical ethics.

Grazie Pozo Christie is a policy adviser with the Catholic Association.

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