Communications Department

Bill to Ban Use of Aborted Babies in Research Introduced in Nebraska Legislature

Feb 28, 2000 | babyparts

By Julie Schmit-Albin
Nebraska RTL Executive Director

Brought to a head by news that the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) is conducting research that uses tissue harvested from aborted babies, a Nebraska legislator has introduced a bill that would ban the sale, purchase, research, or transplantation of tissue taken from aborted babies.

A firestorm of controversy erupted over Nebraska’s airwaves and in its print media when the Omaha World-Heraldbroke the story last November that UMNC in Omaha has been conducting research that utilized tissue taken from babies aborted by the state’s most notorious abortionist, LeRoy Carhart.

Nebraskans opposed to the use of aborted baby body parts have flooded the state’s newspapers with letters to the editor. They are calling radio talk shows and discussing the issue in coffee shops.

Model legislation from NRLC provided the impetus for the introduction of the bill offered by state senator John Hilgert. Another state Senator, Paul Hartnett, has declared the bill known as LB 1405 his priority bill for the session. (Carhart’s abortion facility is located in Hartnett’s district.)

This means that once the bill passes in committee, a debate is guaranteed. This is crucial since time is very limited. Nebraska’s legislative session this year will last only 60 days.

Nebraska operates under a unicameral system, meaning there is only one body – – a 49-member Senate – – rather than a separate house and senate, which is the case in all other states. Sen. Hilgert has gathered 29 co-sponsors.

Ordinarily, a bill must gather 25 votes to pass. However, due to an anticipated pro-abortion filibuster, 33 votes will be needed to “invoke cloture” – – stop debate – – after the bill has undergone a grand total of 16 hours of debate.

Only in the last few months has it been revealed that these research protocols were put in place in 1993, using money provided by the National Institutes of Health. Not even elected officials, let alone the general public, knew about the research.

Once the truth came out, petitions opposing aborted baby research were sent to our local right to life chapters to be circulated. Thousands of signatures have been returned and are still coming in every day to our office.

An information packet was sent to every regent, every pro-life state senator, and to the governor, asking questions that arose from information contained in the early news. Also in the packet was information about the trafficking of aborted baby body parts in other areas of the country and color photos of LeRoy Carhart’s facility in Bellevue, Nebraska.

During the week of January 22, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Nebraska Right to Life presented each state senator with a video and booklet further detailing the marketing of aborted baby body parts in the U.S. Our annual Walk for Life was held on January 22, at which time the 3,500 participants received information on how to contact their state senators and university regents.

No one had denied that Carhart is supplying the tissue to UNMC. UNMC asserts that Carhart receives no monetary remuneration.

But the fact that he was appointed in 1997 to an unpaid, volunteer faculty post in the Department of Pathology – – and thus able to tout the title of adjunct professor to promote his abortion business – – doesn’t seem to faze UNMC.

When the story broke, the first reaction from UNMC was that “we just need to educate Nebraskans as to how vital this research is and then they will all get on board.”

That response did not quell the furor. But when Gov. Mike Johanns asked University of Nebraska President Dennis Smith in early December to stop the research, this elicited a flat-out “NO.”

Smith announced the formation of a “Bio-Ethics Commission” to study the “moral implications” of such research. Since Smith will pick the commission members, this hardly reassured pro lifers.
The next response from supporters was a trial balloon floated by University of Nebraska Regent Drew Miller. Miller said that eventually the source of all tissue could eventually come from morally acceptable sources – – i.e., babies who are miscarried or stillborn. Of course Miller said this approach would “take time.”

At its December 11 meeting, the Board of Regents passed a resolution stating that the research with aborted babies would continue while UNMC made every effort to seek out alternative sources. The regents did nothing to disassociate themselves from LeRoy Carhart, their alleged quick, easy source of aborted babies.

I testified at that meeting, along with several other pro-life/pro-family leaders. Rather than providing answers to our list of 17 questions, we believe they abdicated their responsibility by rubber-stamping whatever the administration put in front of them.

At the regents’ January meeting we presented petitions with the names of thousands of Nebraskans. However, this grassroots opposition to aborted fetal tissue research met with the same indifference. Had the regents not summarily dismissed our concerns, the need to introduce legislation would not have been so pressing.

One suspects that no one, including UNMC officials, anticipated that the legislature would act. Probably no one expected that the legislation would get prioritized.

We anticipate UNMC will launch a major public relations campaign to reinforce public opinion against the pro-life viewpoint.

We have stressed until we’re blue in the face that no pro-life/pro-family group is opposed to legitimate medical research, but that we adamantly oppose extracting tissue from babies killed by induced abortion for that research. The irony in this whole debate is that there has been over a decade of experimentation using aborted fetal tissue and it’s flopped.

For example, an article ran in the Boston Globe February 13, explaining how and why Sen. John McCain had flip-flopped on the issue, moving from opposition to using tissue taken from aborted babies to support.

“In laboratories fetal issue transplantation has not proved as practical or promising as once promoted,” the Globereported. It quoted Dr. J. William Langston, president of the Parkinson Institute of Sunnyvale, California, who said, “The science is taking us in a very different direction.”

How Nebraskans react to this issue will determine whether we step back from the precipice or teeter over the edge, into an abyss from which we may never return.

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