Selling Unborn Babies: the Reality of Fetal Tissue Research

The availability of abortion has spawned another business. Mainly, the selling of organs and body parts of aborted babies to research labs.

Technically, it is against the law for any clinic to sell fetal remains for money. The NIH Revitalization Act of 1993 saw to this. The act makes it unlawful “to knowingly acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any human fetal tissue for valuable consideration if the transfer affects interstate commerce.”

However, many abortion clinics are able to get around this law. In the paper “Arguments Against Fetal Tissue Trafficking” the author explains how clinics circumvent the law.

“. . . The research institutes and the abortion clinics have joined with a third party, the fetal tissue wholesaler. The fetal tissue wholesaler pays the abortion clinics a “site fee” to place employees, known as “procurement agents,” who collect various body parts of the aborted fetuses as soon as the abortion process is finished and ship them to various research institutes. By having free access to all the desirable fetal tissue, these agents take the body parts that are requested to various research laboratories and government agencies.

The wholesaler is technically renting the space to harvest the body parts rather than paying for the tissue itself. The abortionist then “donates” the tissues to the wholesalers. At the other end of the transaction, the wholesaler will “donate” the fetal material to researchers but bill them for the cost of retrieval. Thus the business deal is complete.

An example of this is found in a book called “Lovejoy: A Year in the Life of an Abortion Clinic.” It is not a pro-life book. Instead, it is intended as a balanced work of reference.

7 week old baby in a petri dish – ready to be dissected for his organs

From Lovejoy: A Year in the Life of an Abortion Clinic (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1996) by Peter Korn. (p 236-237) From the author’s observation:

“Although the operation is over, the fetus is still a matter of concern. This patient, like most, has signed an extra consent form allowing the extracted material to be used for medical research. Rhonda, a medical assistant who also works for a biological supply company, takes the surgical tray in another room where she uses a plastic colander to strain out the blood, leaving only the separated parts of the fetus. These she places in a glass dish, taking a moment to measure one of the feet against a transparent plastic ruler to establish exact gestational age. Earlier in the day she received her regular fax detailing what body parts are needed by which researchers around the country. The researchers specify preferences for age and, in some cases, sex. Liver, spleen, pancreas, and brain are the organs most often requested…”

Planned Parenthood also has a reference to donating fetal tissue on their website. Under the heading of “Donating Fetal Tissue for Medical Treatment and Research.”

“Decisions about donating human tissue are never taken lightly or made easily. Most agree that such decisions reflect generosity, courage, and the hope that some humanitarian good may come out of an unintended pregnancy.”

Note that the word “donating” is used. The woman is “donating” the tissue. Planned Parenthood implies that no money will be involved in the “donating” of fetal organs and parts. Yet Planned Parenthood makes money due to the method listed above. This is possible because the NIH Revitalization Act exempts “reasonable payments associated with the transportation, implantation, processing, preservation quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue” allowing a loophole so that everyone can make money -except the woman involved.

One e-mail transmission, made public by American Life League, was intercepted and published:

“Human embryonic and fetal tissues are available from the Central Laboratory for Human Embryology at the University of Washington. The laboratory, which is supported by the National Institutes of Health, can supply tissue from normal of [sic] abnormal embryos and fetuses of desired gestational ages between 40 days and term.

Specimens are obtained within minutes of passage and tissues are aseptically identified, staged and immediately processed according to the requirements of individual investigators.

Presently, processing methods include immediate fixation, snap fixation, snap freezing in liquid nitrogen, and placement in balanced salt solutions or media designated and/or supplied by investigators. Specimens are shipped by overnight express, arriving the day following procurement. The laboratory can also supply serial sections of human embryos that have been preserved in methyl Carnoy’s fixative, embedded in paraffin and sectioned at 5 microns. Inquiries are directed to Alan G. Fantel, Ph.D., Department of Pediatrics RD-20, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195.”

The former was a copy of e-mail transmission as printed out and mailed to A.L.L. J. Brown, Communique, May 13, 1994, p. 3

The following brochure was obtained from a fetal tissue wholesaler called Opening Lines is presented here.

This is a price list brochure of how much each piece of an aborted baby is worth. This is a real price list obtained directly from Opening Lines.

On an ironic note, many pro-choicers state that fetuses are not human beings or are merely blobs (or as one pro-choicer of my acquaintance said “A smear on a test tube.”) So how is it that laboratories can market organs from aborted babies and experiment on them precisely because they are human? If a fetus is nothing, a product of conception, or cluster of cells, how can scientists obtain human organs from them?

Pro-lifers have also unearthed order forms sent to abortion clinics. One such form quoted British Columbia’s Dr. Vanugram Venkatesh asking for an international Fed-Ex shipment of:

“16-24 week lungs (trachea not required)” to study “molecular mechanisms of fluid reabsorption in human fetal lung.”

The order also said simply, “Bill our account.”

Here is a copied order that one Planned Parenthood clinic received.

Here is an excerpt from an advertisement in the March 1994 NIH Guide. (The National Institutes for Health operate a Laboratory for Embryology at the University of Washington in Seattle that runs a 24- hour collection service at abortion clinics.)

“Department of Pediatrics, RD-20

“Seattle, WA 98195.”

This is an opportunity to make a difference . . . and it can be beneficial to your clinic. . . .

“1) Consultative and Diagnostic Pathology will lease space from your facility to perform the harvesting and distribution of tissue. The revenue generated from the lease can be used to offset your clinic’s overhead.

“2) Consultative and Diagnostic Pathology can train your staff to harvest and process fetal tissue. Based on your volume we will reimburse part or all of your employee’s salary, thereby reducing your overhead.”

Here are some similar documents.

And another:

The following incident was reported in “When Abortion Fails: The Unborn’s Uncertain Destiny” by Nick Thimmesch (Life Cycle Books)

Dr. Sophie Perry, director of the Department of Pathology at the District of Columbia General Hospital revealed to the press that the staff employees of that department had collected more than $68,000 dollars from commercial firms for the organs of stillborns and dead premature babies, some from “late term elective abortions.” A hospital official later admitted that the earnings were used to buy a television set for the lounge, to cover expenses for physicians attending conventions, and for soft drinks and cookies for visiting professors.”


An article on abortion recounts the following:

“Fetal skin specimens were used by Dr. Karen Holbrook of the University of Washington, Seattle, and her study of “Fetal Skin Biology” for her work she was granted $239,740 in 1984 to 1985. 60 human fetuses or embryos.”

When asked about how the babies were obtained for research, Dr. Holbrook said:

“Hopefully they are not born alive. It’s better to avoid that. The skin is taken after fetal demise.”

Olga Fairfax, “101 Uses for a Dead (or Alive) Baby” ALL About Issues 1984, 6 – 7


20/20 did a investigation of Dr. Miles Jones, Missouri pathologist whose company, opening lines, please feel tissue from clinics and ships it to research labs. The producer went undercover.

“It’s market force. It’s what you can sell it for. If you control the flow, it’s probably the equivalent the invention of the assembly line.”

Dr. Miles Jones, Missouri pathologist who wants to open an abortion clinic in Mexico so he can get a greater supply fetal tissue

“While ABC’s program was an eye-opener for many, it failed to air [the investigator]‘s eyewitness accounts of babies who were dissected and their organs harvested while still functioning.. In these cases, according to the eyewitnesses, abortions were not performed – instead, babies were born alive in order to procure undamaged fetal specimens.”

“ABC Airs Bogus Report on Fetal Tissue Marketing” Washington: American Life League press release,, March 9, 2000

Quoted in Randy Alcorn “Pro-life Answers to Pro-Choice Arguments” (Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, 2000) 34-35


With no change in the laws, no media coverage, and no public outcry, such practices go on today.

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11 Responses to Selling Unborn Babies: the Reality of Fetal Tissue Research

  1. cornelia says:

    While these practices are more than questionable, you may also want to consider that those unwanted babies allow the research around caring for early born babies. Whether you are pro life or pro choice, you have to agree that research is a necessary evil. If your child was born at seven months a few decades ago, there wasn’t much chance of survival and it is precisely this research which is increasingly aiding to reduce the death of those children that are to be welcome into a loving family. If you were in that situation, how would you react if you were told that your baby died due to lung failure which could have been prevented if the pro lide laws allowed research?

  2. Julie says:

    Wow, this is really sick. I don’t understand how people get to the point where it wouldn’t bother them

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  4. maberi samuel says:

    What if I sell off my boby part mostly akeyden am give the issuarence protection

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  6. KatLovesJ says:

    I am so sorry, little one in the petri dish, that we didn’t protect you as a nation.

    I am so sorry, precious little one, that your tiny body was used for dissection and harvesting parts. You weren’t some useless “blob of tissue”–but a unique human being with your own DNA and soul.

    These photos posted here, of little ones, so precious in God’s eyes, have broken my heart. Completely.

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  9. teresita diaz says:


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