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A New Growth Industry in Baby Body Parts

Nov 30, 1999 | babyparts

By Susan Wills

Disposing of fetal remains poses a perennial challenge to abortion clinics. The last thing owners want is dumpsters filled with mangled bodies that look all too human. Solutions to the disposal dilemma run the gamut from the truly repulsive to … the unbelievably repulsive.

There is, for example, Mayfair Women’s Clinic in Aurora, Colorado, where former owner-operator Dr. James J. Parks, M.D., reached what one had thought was the nadir of disposal practices: grinding buckets full of 15 to 22 weeks’ gestation babies through a hand-cranked, old-fashioned meat grinder until they took the consistency of “multiple tubes of pink toothpaste,” able to be flushed down sink drains. (Source: Affidavit of Curtis E. Stover, M.D., dated June 15, 1992, corroborated in depositions of Dr. Parks and clinic staff.)

However, Mayfair Women’s Clinic is once again at ground zero for controversy over its disposal practices because now, it seems, the children aborted there are no longer “unwanted.” They are, in fact, very much wanted by one of about five U.S. organizations which provide fetal organs and tissues to researchers.

According to World magazine, Mayfair is under contract with an intermediary called Anatomic Gift Foundation (AGF), headquartered in Laurel, Maryland, as a source and site for the harvesting and preparation of baby body parts for shipment to researchers.

An article in World (Lynn Vincent, “The Harvest of Abortion,” Oct. 23, 1999, found at www.worldmag.com/world/issue/10-23-99/cover_1.asp), illustrates the gruesomeness of the daily grind of AGF “technician” Ms. Ying Bei Wang, who works on-site at Mayfair harvesting fetal body parts:

As Monday morning sunshine spills across the high plains of Aurora, Colo., and a new work week begins, fresh career challenges await Ms. Ying Bei Wang. On Monday, for example, she might scalpel her way through the brain stem of an aborted 24-week pre-born child, pluck the brain from the baby’s peach-sized head with forceps, and plop it into wet ice for later shipment. On Tuesday, she might carefully slice away the delicate tissue that secures a dead child’s eyes in its skull, and extract them whole. Ms. Ying knows her employer’s clients prefer the eyes of dead babies to be whole. One once requested to receive 4 to 10 per day.

The following article–and several other stories appearing in, for example, Insight (reprinted with permission in NRL News, October 12, 1999), The American Enterprise, and Alberta Report–relies heavily on evidence uncovered in a Life Dynamics, Inc. (LDI), into unsavory and possibly illegal practices in fetal tissue trafficking by AGF and others, which has attracted not only the attention of the media, but also that of Congress. (See story, page 12).

A further examination of the evidence accumulated, conversations with several key figures and experts, and documented facts about fetal tissue procurement and research published in the last decade raise many serious concerns.

For example, are abortionists who participate in tissue and organ “donation” altering procedures to best accomplish retrieval of the desired “fresh” organs, without regard to what is safest for the mother?

Are procedures ever delayed (at greater risk to the mother) to obtain more fully developed (thus usually more valuable) organs?

To what extent is the profit motive driving this business (despite a federal law that supposedly restricts profiteering in organs)?

Is the need for “fresh” and intact specimens being met, in some cases, by partial or complete delivery of live premature infants?

Can a mother ever properly consent to the donation of all or part of a child she has chosen to abort?

Are current practices for obtaining “consent” to donate informed, unpressured, and solicited apart from consent to the abortion or subsequent to the abortion?

Will published claims of potential research benefits from the use of aborted babies become a significant, or even a deciding, factor among women conflicted over the abortion decision?

Will the research demand for a steady supply of baby body parts “legitimize” abortion and further degrade the dignity of human life?

How big is the current and anticipated demand?

Will continued research using fetal organs and tissues outpace the supply available in the U.S., driving up demand in developing countries where the economic pressures on the world’s poorest populations could lead to even greater exploitation of their bodies and their children?

Specifically, in light of the following passage from the October 23 edition of World magazine, what deficiencies in current law, or the enforcement thereof, need to be corrected?

Money paid by fetal-tissue providers to abortion clinics is termed a “site fee,” and does not, Mr. [Brent] Bardsley [AGF executive director] maintains, pay for baby parts harvested. Instead the fee compensates clinics for allowing technicians like Ms. Ying to work on-site retrieving and dissecting dead babies – – sort of a Frankensteinian sublet.

“It’s clearly a fee-for-space arrangement,” says Mr. Bardsley. “We occupy a portion of their laboratory, use their clinic supplies, have a phone line installed. The site fee offsets the use of clinic supplies that we use in tissue procurement.”

Before looking into these concerns, here is a precis of some of the evidence that has surfaced:

(1) a videotaped conversation with “Kelly” (a pseudonym) who claims to have been on the AGF payroll, working inside an unidentified abortion clinic, performing duties similar to AGF technician’s Ms. Ying;

(2) excerpts of recorded telephone conversations allegedly with Mrs. Brenda Bardsley (AGF president and co-founder with her husband James Bardsley) and with Dr. Miles Jones, founder and president of AGF competitor Opening Lines (OL), late of West Frankfort, Illinois;

(3) a collection of about 50 “protocols” or purchase orders from medical researchers which list the fetal organs and tissues needed, frequency needed, and the details of retrieval, preparation for shipment, and delivery;

(4) copies of AGF’s and OL’s

fee-for-services schedules; and

(5) OL’s aggressively (some might say ghoulishly) cheerful marketing brochure, explaining to prospective parts suppliers in the abortion industry “HOW YOU CAN TURN YOUR PATIENT’S DECISION INTO SOMETHING WONDERFUL.”

Kelly’s descriptions of her job and the business of AGF seem credible and are corroborated on some points in the protocols. Some of them stipulate that organ retrieval must be accomplished within 10 to 20 minutes of the cessation of blood circulation. This makes it reasonable to assume that some methods of “abortion” are preferred over others.

She also describes the process of ruling out children with congenital anomalies or exposure to sexually transmitted diseases to satisfy the requests for perfect tissue often spelled out in the protocols.

Kelly also gives an eyewitness account of an abortionist drowning newly delivered, still-living twins (at 24 weeks’ gestational age) after she refused to begin harvesting their organs before they were dead. She referred to other children brought for dissection while their hearts were still beating and others, up to 30 weeks’ gestation, who were killed after full delivery. However, there is no independent proof that these episodes occurred.

The recorded telephone conversation with Mrs. Bardsley was apparently genuine (although she maintains that some of her answers were misunderstood) and discusses how the system of fetal purchasing works with AGF paying a “site fee” for the use of space inside a source clinic, as well as a flat fee for gross dissection, preparation of fetal specimens (based on trimester gestational age), and serology testing and how to avoid problems in overnight shipping by using intentionally vague descriptions of contents.

She confirmed these details in a conversation with NRL News. They are consistent with the printed fee schedule, as well as with past statements by her husband which had been reported by the media.

Many of the recorded comments allegedly made by Dr. Miles Jones to an investigator, whom he assumed was a potential research client, relate to Opening Lines’s fee schedule, financial arrangements with abortion clinics, and Jones’s aggressive search for sources of fetal organs and tissue in Mexico and Canada. The conversation is also consistent with OL’s brochure and minutely detailed fee schedule ranging from, on the low end, spleens, ears, and eyes for as little as $50 (“40% discount for single eye”), to the pricey gonads for $550, “Intact trunk (with/without limbs)” for $500, “Intact embryonic cadaver (>8 weeks)” for $600, and a “Brain (>8 weeks)” for $999, but “30% discount if significantly fragmented.”

Dr. Jones is currently unreachable. Soon after The Daily American, the local paper in West Frankfort, Illinois (where Opening Lines was headquartered), devoted a banner headline and front-page treatment to his business (on September 10, 1999), Dr. Jones disappeared, OL phone lines were disconnected, and the doors padlocked.

An employee of OL, who was a longtime resident of the small town, also left, as did the managing editor of The Daily American (no forwarding number on his residential phone). Apparently, almost the entire editorial staff left as well. In an interview, the new editor, only three weeks on the job, claims to have no information about any of them.

According to sources, Dr. Jones has sent letters to clients and former clients soliciting their continued patronage at a new location.

Just how bizarre the uses of baby parts can be is illustrated by this passage from the aforementioned World magazine article:

For example, R. Paul Johnson from Massachusetts’s New England Regional Primate Research Center requested second-trimester fetal livers. His 1995 protocol notes that the livers will be used ultimately for “primate implantation,” including the “creation of human-monkey chimeras.” In biology, a chimera is an organism created by the grafting or mutation of two genetically different cell types.

Additional New Details Add to Picture

By making a number of telephone calls and by conducting a vigorous search on the Internet, new information of great interest was uncovered.

ITEM 1: A copy of a seven-page “Application and Agreement for Human Tissue Research/ Educa-tion,” dated November 10, 1998, between Anatomic Gift Foundation and Gary J. Miller, professor of pathology, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. For his research in human prostate cancer, Dr. Miller ordered “1st and 2nd trimester prostates” in the quantity of “approximately 12 from each trimester per year.”

Under “Condition of Tissue Requested,” Dr. Miller specified, “To be removed and prepared within 5 minutes … after circulation has stopped.” Other specifications state that they are to be “preserved on wet ice,” “picked up immediately by applicant,” have “low risk no IV drug abuse or known sexually transmitted diseases,” and no prescription medications used by “donor” mother. The contract is signed both by Dr. Miller and, for the Regents of the University of Colorado, by “Sharon Frazier, Director of Purchasing,” (emphasis added).

The AGF satellite office is just down the road from Dr. Miller.

ITEM 2: A person who identified herself as AGF President Brenda Bardsley, reached by phone at the AGF office in White Oak, Georgia, and a man who said he was 13-year employee Joe Paparo (who works out of AGF’s Laurel, Maryland, office) said they were eager to set the record straight.

Both estimate that about 10% of AGF’s current business involves fetal tissue, the balance being in adult organ donation. They claim to have been using only two abortion clinics as sources for some time – – the Mayfair Women’s Center and an unnamed clinic in Kansas, but they now use only Mayfair. They both asserted that AGF plans to phase that operation out and do only adult organ donation.

AGF’s annual revenues have climbed to $2 million in 1998 from $180,000 in 1994. Mrs. Bardsley attributes the windfall to expansion of their adult organ donation business. Both insist that AGF’s dealings in fetal tissue are a break-even proposition at best.

They both explained that a significant decline in their fetal tissue business followed the firing of a former “technician” who, they said, left with AGF’s client list and expertise. In the past few months, several researchers who had been longtime customers of AGF switched over to OL. Mrs. Bardsley said they had told her that OL supplies their needs much more consistently.

Mrs. Bardsley takes this to mean that OL has secured many sources for organs and tissues from second-trimester abortions. The World article quotes an estimate by Dr. Jones that OL’s parent company, Consultative and Diagnostic Path-ology, “processes an average of 1,500 fetal-tissue cases per day” – – a figure also found in OL’s own brochure.

ITEM 3: Alan G. Fantel, Ph.D., of the University of Washington (Seattle) Department of Pediatrics and Central Laboratory for Human Embryology is listed on a National Institutes of Health (NIH) web site as the contact person in charge of the government’s clearinghouse for “human embryonic and fetal tissues.” Since the fetal tissue procurement story broke, Dr. Fantel has been inundated with inquiries about the nature of NIH involvement.

The clearinghouse is still operating, but business has dropped to only about 10-15 embryos or fetuses per week. Dr. Frankel’s office has a grant from NIH to accept tissues from hospitals and abortion clinics and to distribute tissues to grant-funded sites (excluding for-profits, such as pharmaceutical companies).

Dr. Fantel explained that there is a non-profit corporation in California that is “supplying pharmaceutical companies” with fetal organs and tissues. Over the past 35 years, the Central Laboratory for Human Embryology (CLHE) has supplied several hundred laboratories.

Many researchers now, however, are seeking older fetuses and few of these are being sent to CLHE. Those they get, he said, are “completely fragmented. Almost everything into the 2nd trimester have tissues that are macerated from potassium chloride.”

CLHE business may have been redirected to suppliers like Opening Lines, whose brochure promises “a convenient and efficient way for researchers to receive fetal tissue without a lot of bureaucracy” (emphasis added).

Opening Lines’ sales may account in part for the declining business fortunes of two major players in the fetal tissue supply field–Anatomic Gift Foundation and the Central Laboratory for Human Embryology. But the market demand seems to be growing.

One industry analyst points to a projected annual growth of 13.5% in the demand for fetal tissue and cell lines. The consulting firm of Frost and Sullivan put corporate revenues in 1996 from the global market at $428 million and estimated that they’ll reach $1 billion annually by 2002.

ITEM 4: The identity of other baby body parts wholesalers has long puzzled outsiders. Apparently one is Advanced Bioscience Resources, Inc. (ABR). A woman who identified herself as Linda K. Tracy, the founder and president of ABR, conceded that her company acts as an intermediary in the acquisition of fetal organs and tissues from abortion sites and delivery to researchers.

Beyond that, Ms. Tracy refused to elaborate on the business. All the “hoopla,” she said, is because of the abortion issue – – people “think donations of fetal tissue will encourage abortion, as if women made up their minds on that basis.” She declined further invitations to comment, which made it impossible for us to ask her to explain how/whether ABR’s practices comport with federal law.

There remaining points should be briefly addressed. First, might abortionists alter the way they do abortions to obtain fresh tissue even to the detriment of the women undergoing the abortion? It’s surely not unthinkable.

Reported procedures performed in Sweden (O. Lindval and A. Bjorkland) and Mexico (I. Madrazo et al. in Archives of Neurology 47, 1281-2) describe precisely how women were given abortions under general anesthesia rather than local, and with techniques that took three to four times longer than usual. At least in the case of the Swedish team, the extraction of fetal brain tissue was the event that killed the then-living child in utero. A Florida doctor (who wished to remain anonymous) has discussed an abortion procedure he uses to obtain the best and freshest tissue. It takes four to five times longer to perform than the normal vacuum aspiration, increasing the likelihood of pain, discomfort, and infection.

Dr. Kathi Aultman, who emerged in recent years as an articulate and tireless opponent of partial-birth abortion, explained that her decision to speak out was prompted by a fear that the demand for fetal tissue would push more and more abortion doctors into using this far riskier procedure.

Second, could the knowledge that one’s aborted child might allegedly “further research to find a cure for a debilitating disease” influence a woman’s decision to abort and therefore increase the number of abortions? Certainly, that would rarely be the primary reason why a woman would choose to abort her child.

But a 1995 Canadian study found that 17% of respondents who said they might consider having an abortion if pregnant agreed that they would be more likely to have an abortion if the tissue of their aborted child could be used for fetal transplant research. (D.K. Martin et al., “Fetal Tissue Transplantation and Abortion Decisions: A Survey of Urban Women,” Canadian Medical Association Journal, Sept. 1, 1995, p. 545.)

Lastly, in The Human Body Shop, [Harper San Francisco, 1993), author Andrew Kimbrell offers evidence of a vast and growing worldwide demand for adult and fetal organs, particularly for transplantation. It is easy to imagine a scenario where the number of abortions in the U.S. can no longer supply the needs of researchers.

This would further drive up demand for tissue and organs from impoverished developing countries. “Pro-choice” feminist researcher Janice Raymond cites this possibility as a reason to prohibit fetal tissue research.

Categories: babyparts
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