The US funded a project that collects body parts from aborted babies – some of them apparently alive moments before their organs are harvested – new documents show, prompting claims that conspiracy theorists have been vindicated.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has awarded at least $2.7 million to a University of Pittsburgh program that sought to create a “tissue hub” sourced from aborted foetuses ranging from six to 42 weeks’ gestation. Forty-two weeks equates to more than 10 months of pregnancy.
Details about the program emerged after conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch and the Centre for Medical Progress obtained 252 pages of documents as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought against the HHS.
In its 2015 grant application to the HHS, the University of Pittsburgh explained that it had been “collecting fetal tissue for over 10 years… includ[ing] liver, heart, gonads, legs, brain, genitourinary tissues including kidneys, ureters and bladders.”
The institution requested government funds in order to help “develop a pipeline to the acquisition, quality control and distribution of human genitourinary [urinary and genital organs and functions] samples” taken from aborted foetuses.
The project aimed to generate an “ongoing resource” that can be used to distribute “fresh” human samples from “various stages (six-42 weeks).”
Commenting on its operational abilities in 2015, the university said that it had “disbursed over 300 fresh samples collected from 77 cases. The collections can be significantly ramped up as material could have been accrued from as many as 725 cases last year.”
Its plan to “harvest and distribute quality tissue and cells” also included racial quotas: The university’s application said that it wanted 50% of its aborted “subjects” to be minority foetuses.
However, as the Centre for Medical Progress (CMP) noted, Allegheny County, the region from which the university sources foetuses for harvesting, is 80% white and only 13% black.
The university argued that it was an ideal candidate to provide human tissue to US government researchers because the institution “takes steps” to “ensure the highest quality biological specimens.”
Specifically, the grant application said that warm ischemic time – the amount of time an organ or body part remains at room temperature after its blood supply has been reduced or cut, before being cooled or reconnected to a blood supply – is “kept at a minimum.”
Elsewhere in the documents, the university explained that it uses “labour induction” as a “procedure that will be used to obtain the tissue.”
In a press release discussing the tranche of documents, the CMP noted that “if the foetus’ heartbeat and blood circulation continue in a labour induction abortion for harvesting organs, it means the foetus is being delivered while still alive and the cause of death is the removal of the organs.”
Both the university and the National Institutes of Health, which is part of the HHS, have previously claimed that they follow all relevant laws regarding fetal-tissue research.
The new revelations led some to argue that claims about ethically questionable medical research can no longer be dismissed as baseless conspiracy theories.