House Takes Up Fetal Tissue Probe
Jim Abrams,
Associated Press Writer

3:27 PM EDT; November 9, 1999; Washington, D.C. (AP) -- The House passed a measure Tuesday urging its members to investigate whether private companies are violating Federal law by profiting from the sale of fetal parts used in medical research. The resolution passed by voice vote, but some Democrats objected to language that referred to fetal tissue as "baby body parts" and said the authors were trying to inflame the debate over abortion rights.

House committees normally stage such investigations without prior request or authorization. Congress lifted a ban on federally funded research involving fetal tissue transplants in 1993 but made it a felony to purchase or sell that tissue for a profit. The resolution's sponsor, Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colorado) displayed a brochure from a company, which he said no longer has a known address or phone number, that listed prices for fetal parts, including "$50 for eyes, $150 for lungs and hearts, and $999 for an eight-week brain." "Unfortunately, entrepreneurs appear to have found a profitable niche within the abortion industry and have begun to traffic in the body parts of aborted babies," he said. Abortion rights advocates said Congress should investigate possible violations and those breaking the law should be prosecuted but questioned the aim of the resolution. "The use of inflammatory and imprecise language," said Rep. Dianna DeGette, (D-Colorado) "does nothing to ensure that these laws are being enforced."

The sponsors, said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-New York) "are attempting to corrupt medical research with the politics of abortion." But Rep. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) said, "Through the profit motive, we're inducing abortionists to put the life of their patients at risk for monetary gain." Fetal tissue is currently being used in research into such illnesses as Diabetes, Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's Disease.