Graphic video footage of a Planned Parenthood worker picking through the tiny remains of an aborted child intensified scrutiny on the nation’s largest abortion provider on Friday, even as new revelations broke about the market for fetal tissue.
David Daleiden is head of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), the group releasing undercover videos of Planned Parenthood staffers discussing fees for providing aborted fetal tissue to middleman companies supplying biotech researchers.
On Friday, Daleiden told CNN one of those companies, StemExpress, is trying to suppress an undercover video showing a top staffer admitting the company “sometimes gets fully intact fetuses shipped to their laboratory from the abortion clinics they work with.” If that’s true, Daleiden said it could be evidence of infants born alive.
A California judge issued a temporary restraining order against CMP, forbidding the group from releasing a video showing any StemExpress officials, until an Aug. 19 hearing on the matter.
In the meantime, another, less examined question lingers: What happens to the remains of unborn children once they reach a lab? At least in one facility, fetal organs are transplanted into lab rats.
In January, researchers at Ganogen Inc., a biotech company based in Redwood City, Calif., said they had transplanted dozens of fetal kidneys into lab rats. The ultimate goal: Learn how to grow fetal organs to a larger size in a lab animal, with the hopes of transferring the organs into ailing adults in need of transplants.
In a study published in the American Journal of Transplantation, the Ganogen researchers said they procured “55 fully intact human fetal kidneys” from StemExpress. The gestational age of the unborn children was 17 to 18 weeks.
Animal research in medical labs isn’t new, and a StemExpress spokeswoman told Live Science in January that donors consented to the project and knew the fetal tissue could be transplanted into animals.
It’s also worth noting that in unrelated cases, parents sometimes choose to donate the fetal remains of children lost to miscarriages or infants who die at birth. Researchers at other foundations sometimes use those remains in animal experiments as well.
But Ganogen’s technique to grow fetal organs in lab rats for later transplantation is new.
And the possibility of harvesting kidneys from unborn children discarded through abortion—with the hopes of someday transplanting the same kidneys into ailing adults wanting to live— adds another grisly layer to a deeply disturbing story.
Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist at New York University, told Live Science in January he didn’t think the efforts would gain widespread acceptance: “American society is morally uncomfortable enough about abortion that growing organs from fetal remains will never be accepted. …”
But Eugene Gu, CEO of Ganogen, told Live Science he hopes that’s not the case. He said researchers plan to transplant fetal organs into larger animals, such as pigs. He also said the technology could apply to other organs, such as hearts.
The company’s tagline is “Ending the donor shortage.”
Other medical researchers have grappled with how to interact with parents donating tissue from miscarried children. In a 2012 study published by the Taylor & Francis Group, researchers notably called the mother and father in such situations “parents,” instead of “donors,” and they observed the value those parents placed on the lives of unborn children who died in the womb.
“There is a strong attachment to a life that you created, that you feel is sacred,” one researcher noted.
But in the video of the Planned Parenthood lab released on Thursday, technicians didn’t speak of the sacredness of life. Instead, one casually commented a baby’s remains looked “war-torn,” while another assessed the intact parts of an aborted child as “five star.”
— by Jamie Dean | WNS