Body parts trade probed

By Paul Tuns
The Interim

The Commerce Committee of the United States Congress has finally begun an investigation into the grisly trade in human body parts procured from aborted babies.

During the partial-birth abortion debate last October, New Hampshire Republican Senator Robert Smith had been unsuccessful in his attempt to rein in the gruesome trafficking of body parts procured from abortion. On the Senate floor, Smith explained why some sort of oversight was necessary.

“I want to try to paint you a picture of what happens,” he said. “A girl walks into a clinic and sits down to wait. A fax comes in, and the fax contains a list of what body parts are needed for that day …. He [the abortionist] looks out into the waiting room and stares at her stomach, and knows this [tissue order] is [for] the very same child who is very much alive now, perhaps even moving and kicking. He knows that child will be dead in a few moments, and they already have the work order …. After her abortion, in a matter of 10 minutes … that baby can be shipped to researchers across the country – just like going into a supermarket and buying a piece of meat.”

Smith’s amendment would have required persons who receive fetal tissue to file reports with the Department of Health and Human Services, specifying the gestational age of the fetus, the abortion method used, the fees paid to the abortion clinic, and other information. It would also have limited the amount of “site fees” paid by tissue vendors to abortion clinics to cover only the costs of locating and dissecting aborted babies because it seems that vendors pay inflated “site fees” in order to circumvent a federal law that theoretically prohibits profiteering on human tissue.

The Smith amendment also explicitly excluded information that might identify an abortionist or a woman procuring an abortion. That did not stop pro-abortion Senator Barbara Boxer, a Democrat from California, from arguing that it would allow people to learn the names of clinics at which fetal tissue is being collected, “which I fear could escalate violence at health care clinics all over this country.”

Although the Senate decided not to investigate the issue, on Nov. 9, 1999, the House of Representatives fast-tracked a vote to begin an examination of the issue and adopted a resolution calling for Congress to “conduct hearings, and take appropriate steps if necessary, concerning private companies that are involved in the trafficking of baby body parts for profit.” The resolution met vehement opposition from pro-abortion politicians. Colorado Democratic Representative Diana DeGette complained that “the use of inflammatory and imprecise language” such as “baby body parts” was unnecessary and was entirely politically motivated. Democrats also tried to have the hearings closed to the public and media, but were unsuccessful.

Maggie Wynne, director of the House Pro-life Caucus, told The Interim that the investigation is examining whether or not federal laws are being violated and whether new laws are necessary. She said one of the more troubling aspects that it is looking into is whether the timing and method of abortions have been changed in order to supply profitable requests but which could endanger the health or life of the mother.

Colorado Republican Representative Tom Tancredo, the resolution’s sponsor, compared trafficking in body parts of aborted babies to “the grotesque deeds carried out in Communist China, where buyers can place orders for specific organs from bodies of certain blood types. Prisoners matching the specifications are then slaughtered and their organs harvested and sold.”

New Jersey Republican Representative Chris Smith said that companies provide price lists for body parts to researchers. These body parts are “from babies who are either killed by abortion or are born alive during an abortion and then killed or left to die” who are then “scavenge[d] for the requested parts.”

Congress should be ashamed that it took so long to investigate. For as Smith noted, “This is not new. Members of the pro-life community have pointed out these … atrocities for years, and yet until now, authorities have ignored this despicable exploitation of women and unborn children as companies make profits off murdered babies.”

Virginia Republican Representative Thomas Bliley, chairman of the House Commerce Committee, says the committee is investigating four companies after finding evidence they may be selling tissue for a profit, noting that federal statutes only allow the recovery of “legitimate costs.” On March 9, the committee held a hearing on “Fetal Tissue: Is It Being Bought and Sold in Violation of Federal Law?”