FETAL TISSUE TRAFFICKING: Shedding Light on Illegal Sales
A key witness in yesterday's House Commerce Committee health and environment subcommittee hearing on the sale of fetal body parts "recanted most of his allegations" against two companies, one day after ABC news magazine "20/20" televised an undercover investigation that alleged illegal fetal tissue sales activity, CongressDaily/A.M. reports. Federal law prohibits the sale of fetal tissue for profit. Dean Alberty, who worked for both Opening Lines and the Anatomical Gift Foundation, alleged that he had "first hand knowledge of the illegal for-profit sale of fetal tissue" and had witnessed nearly 40 late term abortion procedures (Rovner, CongressDaily/A.M., 3/10). Following one late term procedure, Alberty says he contacted the FBI to investigate, but he received "no help." Then he contacted the Texas-based antiabortion group Life Dynamics Inc., to help publicize his story (Wetzstein, Washington Times, 3/10). In a videotape produced by the group, Alberty claims that he witnessed profiteering from fetal tissue sales (Carter, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/10). However, during the hearing, Democrats introduced a sworn affidavit from Alberty in which he said that he had "no personal knowledge of any instances in which an employer of mine charged any fees or received any compensation for retrieving fetal tissue in violation of any of these laws," adding, "I am not a physician and am not qualified to make medical judgements about fetal viability." Questioned about the discrepancies, Alberty testified, "I would go by the affidavit. When I was under oath, I told the truth. Anything I said on a videotape not under oath is a different story" (CongressDaily/A.M., 3/10). However, Alberty continued to assert that some abortion providers "would use lengthier procedures when performing abortions if it meant keeping a fetus intact." Following Alberty's testimony, some committee Republicans still pushed for a ban on fetal tissue research. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) said, "The issue is too big for any one person. This issue is just beginning to get the airing it needs. This is just one day in this ongoing battle to stop this heinous practice." But abortion rights supporters urged caution. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said, "If state and federal laws are not being enforced, let's do better. But let's not sensationalize this issue" (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/10).
Opening Lines President Dr. Miles Jones was subpoenaed to appear before the committee, but when he failed to show yesterday, the committee held him in contempt of Congress. Alberty alleged that he and Jones collaborated on a "fee for services" list for various fetal body parts. Committee members were particularly interested in speaking to Jones, who was shown saying that "'market' forces" drive the cost of fetal body parts in the "20/20" piece (Washington Times, 3/10). In the segment, an undercover producer posing as a potential investor asked Jones the price of various body parts. Jones responded, "It's market force. It's what can you sell it for?" He added, "If you have a guy that's desperate for, let's say, a heart, then he'll pay you whatever you ask." Jones also alluded to the practice of enticing women to donate aborted fetuses to medical research. He said, "You can do something that's got all the legal mumbo-jumbo in it and they'll sign it anyway. If you have someone trained to ask properly, you can get 80%-90% consent rates" (ABC "20/20" transcript, 3/8). Committee members asked the Justice Department to look into the "20/20" allegations (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/10).
Kansas Lawmakers Respond
In response to the "20/20" broadcast, state lawmakers in Kansas yesterday introduced a bill that would prevent abortion clinics from profiting from fetal tissue sales. The bill, introduced in the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, would "narrowly define what payments clinics could receive" for the tissue. Committee Chair Tony Powell (R) explained that although federal law prohibits profits from the sale of fetal tissue, the law is "vaguely worded," adding that he plans to hold a hearing on the bill next Thursday. State Rep. Phill Kline (R) asked the committee to introduce the bill after the "20/20" broadcast reported wrongdoing at an Overland Park, Kan., abortion clinic. He said, "Evidence indicates that federal law has been violated in Kansas on a continued basis." The bill would also require fetal parts to be identified and tracked (Wichita Eagle, 3/10).